Lesson Ideas: Understanding Semi-structured Interviews

Travis Dixon Qualitative Research Methods, Teaching Ideas Leave a Comment

By conducting your own semi-structured interviews, you'll get an insider's perspective on the qualitative research process. (pexels.com)
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Conducting your own qualitative research is an engaging and effective way to learn about qualitative methodology.

Activity Outline

You’re about to conduct your own semi-structured interviews on other students in your class. This will help you understand what a semi-structured interview is, as well as its strengths and limitations. (This activity is designed to go with Lesson 9.1(c) Semi-Structured Interviews in the textbook).


Step One: Choose a topic

Choose a topic that you want to research. Remember that the purpose of qualitative research in psychology is to understand the participants’ subjective experiences of phenomena – i.e. to learn about their experiences with particular things. Therefore, try to choose a topic that your classmates would have some experience with. “Being homeless”, for example, might not be a good topic but “witnessing bullying” could be. (See a list of suggestions at the end of this post).

Step Two: Write your interview schedule

Read pg. 440 of the textbook to learn what an interview schedule is. Once you’re comfortable with what you need to do, create your own 1/2 – 1 page interview schedule for your topic.

Step Three: Conduct your interviews

Find other students who are also ready to conduct interviews and take turns being the interviewer and interviewee. Try to interview at least 3 other students.

man wearing black polo shirt and gray pants sitting on white chair
For IB Psychology Paper 3, you need to know the definition of semi-structured interviews, including at least two characteristics. (Photo by nappy on Pexels.com)

Step Four: Group Reflection

Once everyone has conducted some interviews, form a group of 2-4 students and reflect on the semi-structured interview. Try to answer these questions:

  1. What are two important characteristics of a semi-structured interview?
  2. What are some strengths of a semi-structured interview?
  3. What are some limitations?

Good Topic Examples: 

  • Social life
  • Food
  • Films
  • Travel
  • Music
  • Being a teenager
    five boys standing near body of water

    What people like to do on holiday or for fun could be a good topic for this activity (Photo by Rudy Hartono on Pexels.com). 

Remember that you want to understand your participants’ experiences with these topics, so your interview schedule should have a range of questions that will help with this.


Alternative Activity Idea – For Teachers

In the past, I’ve conducted a mock semi-structured interview with one volunteer student while the rest of the class watches. The topic I choose is “doing the IB DP.”

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