Lesson Ideas: Understanding Semi-structured Interviews

Travis DixonQualitative Research Methods, Teaching Ideas

By conducting your own semi-structured interviews, you'll get an insider's perspective on the qualitative research process. (pexels.com)

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.”