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Structured Interview | Definition, Guide & Examples

Published on January 27, 2022 by Tegan George and Julia Merkus. Revised on June 22, 2023.

A structured interview is a data collection method that relies on asking questions in a set order to collect data on a topic. It is one of four types of interviews .

In research, structured interviews are often quantitative in nature. They can also be used in qualitative research if the questions are open-ended, but this is less common.

While structured interviews are often associated with job interviews, they are also common in marketing, social science, survey methodology, and other research fields.

  • Semi-structured interviews : A few questions are predetermined, whereas the other questions aren’t planned.
  • Unstructured interviews : None of the questions are predetermined.
  • Focus group interviews : The questions are presented to a group instead of one individual.

Table of contents

What is a structured interview, when to use a structured interview, advantages of structured interviews, disadvantages of structured interviews, structured interview questions, how to conduct a structured interview, how to analyze a structured interview, presenting your results, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about structured interviews.

Structured interviews are the most systematized type of interview. In contrast to semi-structured or unstructured interviews, the interviewer uses predetermined questions in a set order.

Structured interviews are often closed-ended. They can be dichotomous, which means asking participants to answer “yes” or “no” to each question, or multiple-choice. While open-ended structured interviews do exist, they are less common.

Asking set questions in a set order allows you to easily compare responses between participants in a uniform context. This can help you see patterns and highlight areas for further research, and it can be a useful explanatory or exploratory research tool.

Structured interviews are best used when:

  • You already have a very clear understanding of your topic, so you possess a baseline for designing strong structured questions.
  • You are constrained in terms of time or resources and need to analyze your data efficiently.
  • Your research question depends on strong parity between participants, with environmental conditions held constant.

A structured interview is straightforward to conduct and analyze. Asking the same set of questions mitigates potential biases and leads to fewer ambiguities in analysis. It is an undertaking you can likely handle as an individual, provided you remain organized.

Differences between different types of interviews

Make sure to choose the type of interview that suits your research best. This table shows the most important differences between the four types.

Reduced bias

Increased credibility, reliability and validity, simple, cost-effective and efficient, formal in nature, limited flexibility, limited scope.

It can be difficult to write structured interview questions that approximate exactly what you are seeking to measure. Here are a few tips for writing questions that contribute to high internal validity :

  • Define exactly what you want to discover prior to drafting your questions. This will help you write questions that really zero in on participant responses.
  • Avoid jargon, compound sentences, and complicated constructions.
  • Be as clear and concise as possible, so that participants can answer your question immediately.
  • Do you think that employers should provide free gym memberships?
  • Did any of your previous employers provide free memberships?
  • Does your current employer provide a free membership?
  • a) 1 time; b) 2 times; c) 3 times; d) 4 or more times
  • Do you enjoy going to the gym?

Structured interviews are among the most straightforward research methods to conduct and analyze. Once you’ve determined that they’re the right fit for your research topic , you can proceed with the following steps.

Step 1: Set your goals and objectives

Start with brainstorming some guiding questions to help you conceptualize your research question, such as:

  • What are you trying to learn or achieve from a structured interview?
  • Why are you choosing a structured interview as opposed to a different type of interview, or another research method?

If you have satisfying reasoning for proceeding with a structured interview, you can move on to designing your questions.

Step 2: Design your questions

Pay special attention to the order and wording of your structured interview questions . Remember that in a structured interview they must remain the same. Stick to closed-ended or very simple open-ended questions.

Step 3: Assemble your participants

Depending on your topic, there are a few sampling methods you can use, such as:

  • Voluntary response sampling : For example, posting a flyer on campus and finding participants based on responses
  • Convenience sampling of those who are most readily accessible to you, such as fellow students at your university
  • Stratified sampling of a particular age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, or other characteristic of interest to you
  • Judgment sampling of a specific set of participants that you already know you want to include

Step 4: Decide on your medium

Determine whether you will be conducting your interviews in person or whether your interview will take pen-and-paper format. If conducted live, you need to decide if you prefer to talk with participants in person, over the phone, or via video conferencing.

Step 5: Conduct your interviews

As you conduct your interviews, be very careful that all conditions remain as constant as possible.

  • Ask your questions in the same order, and try to moderate your tone of voice and any responses to participants as much as you can.
  • Pay special attention to your body language (e.g., nodding, raising eyebrows), as this can bias responses.

After you’re finished conducting your interviews, it’s time to analyze your results.

  • Assign each of your participants a number or pseudonym for organizational purposes.
  • Transcribe the recordings manually or with the help of transcription software.
  • Conduct a content or thematic analysis to look for categories or patterns of responses. In most cases, it’s also possible to conduct a statistical analysis to test your hypotheses .

Transcribing interviews

If you have audio-recorded your interviews, you will likely have to transcribe them prior to conducting your analysis. In some cases, your supervisor might ask you to add the transcriptions in the appendix of your paper.

First, you will have to decide whether to conduct verbatim transcription or intelligent verbatim transcription. Do pauses, laughter, or filler words like “umm” or “like” affect your analysis and research conclusions?

  • If so, conduct verbatim transcription and include them.
  • If not, conduct intelligent verbatim transcription, which excludes fillers and fixes any grammar issues, and is often easier to analyze.

The transcription process is a great opportunity for you to cleanse your data as well, spotting and resolving any inconsistencies or errors that come up as you listen.

Coding and analyzing structured interviews

After transcribing, it’s time to conduct your thematic or content analysis . This often involves “coding” words, patterns, or themes, separating them into categories for more robust analysis.

Due to the closed-ended nature of many structured interviews, you will most likely be conducting content analysis, rather than thematic analysis.

  • You quantify the categories you chose in the coding stage by counting the occurrence of the words, phrases, subjects or concepts you selected.
  • After coding, you can organize and summarize the data using descriptive statistics .
  • Next, inferential statistics allows you to come to conclusions about your hypotheses and make predictions for future research. 

When conducting content analysis, you can take an inductive or a deductive approach. With an inductive approach, you allow the data to determine your themes. A deductive approach is the opposite, and involves investigating whether your data confirm preconceived themes or ideas.

Content analysis has a systematic procedure that can easily be replicated , yielding high reliability to your results. However, keep in mind that while this approach reduces bias, it doesn’t eliminate it. Be vigilant about remaining objective here, even if your analysis does not confirm your hypotheses .

After your data analysis, the next step is to combine your findings into a research paper .

  • Your methodology section describes how you collected the data (in this case, describing your structured interview process) and explains how you justify or conceptualize your analysis.
  • Your discussion and results sections usually address each of your coded categories, describing each in turn, as well as how often they occurred.

If you conducted inferential statistics in addition to descriptive statistics, you would generally report the test statistic , p -value , and effect size in your results section. These values explain whether your results justify rejecting your null hypothesis and whether the result is practically significant .

You can then conclude with the main takeaways and avenues for further research.

Example of interview methodology for a research paper

Let’s say you are interested in healthcare on your campus. You attend a large public institution with a lot of international students, and you think there may be a difference in perceptions based on country of origin.

Specifically, you hypothesize that students coming from countries with single-payer or socialized healthcare will find US options less satisfying.

There is a large body of research available on this topic, so you decide to conduct structured interviews of your peers to see if there’s a difference between international students and local students.

You are a member of a large campus club that brings together international students and local students, and you send a message to the club to ask for volunteers.

Here are some questions you could ask:

  • Do you find healthcare options on campus to be: excellent; good; fair; average; poor?
  • Does your home country have socialized healthcare? Yes/No
  • Are you on the campus healthcare plan? Yes/No
  • Have you ever worried about your health insurance? Yes/No
  • Have you ever had a serious health condition that insurance did not cover? Yes/No
  • Have you ever been surprised or shocked by a medical bill? Yes/No

After conducting your interviews and transcribing your data, you can then conduct content analysis, coding responses into different categories. Since you began your research with the theory that international students may find US healthcare lacking, you would use the deductive approach to see if your hypotheses seem to hold true.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Student’s  t -distribution
  • Normal distribution
  • Null and Alternative Hypotheses
  • Chi square tests
  • Confidence interval
  • Quartiles & Quantiles
  • Cluster sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Data cleansing
  • Reproducibility vs Replicability
  • Peer review
  • Prospective cohort study

Research bias

  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Placebo effect
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Hindsight bias
  • Affect heuristic
  • Social desirability bias

A structured interview is a data collection method that relies on asking questions in a set order to collect data on a topic. They are often quantitative in nature. Structured interviews are best used when: 

  • You already have a very clear understanding of your topic. Perhaps significant research has already been conducted, or you have done some prior research yourself, but you already possess a baseline for designing strong structured questions.
  • You are constrained in terms of time or resources and need to analyze your data quickly and efficiently.

More flexible interview options include semi-structured interviews , unstructured interviews , and focus groups .

The four most common types of interviews are:

  • Structured interviews : The questions are predetermined in both topic and order. 
  • Semi-structured interviews : A few questions are predetermined, but other questions aren’t planned.

The interviewer effect is a type of bias that emerges when a characteristic of an interviewer (race, age, gender identity, etc.) influences the responses given by the interviewee.

There is a risk of an interviewer effect in all types of interviews , but it can be mitigated by writing really high-quality interview questions.

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Primary research involves collecting data about a given subject directly from the real world. This section includes information on what primary research is, how to get started, ethics involved with primary research and different types of research you can do. It includes details about interviews, surveys, observations, and analyses.

Interviewing is a great way to learn detailed information from a single individual or small number of individuals. It is very useful when you want to gain expert opinions on the subject or talk to someone knowledgeable about a topic.

Types of Interviewing

Several different types of interviews exist. You should choose one based on what kind of technology you have available to you, the availability of the individual you are interviewing, and how comfortable you feel talking to people.

Face to Face Interviews: Face to face interviews are when you sit down and talk with someone. They are beneficial because you can adapt your questioning to the answers of the person you are interviewing. You will need recording equipment for the interview, and it is highly recommended that you bring two recording devices with you in case one fails.

Phone Interviews: Phone interviews can be used when you need to interview someone who is geographically far away, who is too busy to meet with you to talk, or who does not want to use video or internet-based technology.

Email Interviews: Email interviews are less personal than face-to-face or phone interviews, but highly convenient for most individuals. You may not get as much information from someone in an email interview because you are not able to ask follow-up questions in the moment or play off the interviewee’s responses. However, email interviews are useful because they are already in a digital format.

Setting Up an Interview

When setting up an interview, be sure to be courteous and professional. Explain to the person being interviewed who you are, what you want to talk them about, and what project you are working on. Don’t be discouraged if not everyone you contact is willing to be interviewed.

Interview Do's and Dont's

When conducting interviews:

  • Do be careful of the types of questions you ask. See the page on Creating good survey and interview questions for more information.
  • Do start the interview with some small talk to give both yourself and the person you are interviewing a chance to get comfortable.
  • Do bring extra recording equipment in case something happens to one of your recording devices.
  • Do pay attention to what is being said during the interview and ask thoughtful follow-up questions.
  • Do come to the interview prepared. You should learn as much as you can about the person you are going to interview before the interview takes place so that you can tailor your questions to them.
  • Don't pester or push the person you are interviewing. If the interviwee does not want to talk about an issue, you should respect that desire.
  • Don't stick to your questions rigidly. If an interesting subject comes up that relates to your research, feel free to ask additional questions about it.
  • Don't allow the person you are interviewing to continually get off topic. If the conversation drifts, ask follow-up questions to redirect the conversation to the subject at hand.


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  1. The Complete Guide to Conducting Research Interviews

    There are three main kinds of research interviews. 1. Structured Interview. This interview type only includes predetermined questions. The interviewer prepares a set of questions to ask during the interview and strictly follows them. There are no follow-up or on-the-spot questions.

  2. Graduate Research Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

    Several questions about background and experience include: Why did you pursue a career in qualitative research? What qualities do you feel make a good qualitative researcher? How would you describe your research skills? What research projects have you completed or contributed to recently? How do you manage a research project?

  3. A Short Guide for Conducting Research Interviews

    For an interview of an expert, some typical questions might include: o Why did you get into this field? o What education, training, or other preparation did you need to get into the field? o What are you working on now and what is interesting about it? o What do you spend the most time doing?

  4. Structured Interview

    Revised on June 22, 2023. A structured interview is a data collection method that relies on asking questions in a set order to collect data on a topic. It is one of four types of interviews. In research, structured interviews are often quantitative in nature. They can also be used in qualitative research if the questions are open-ended, but ...

  5. Interviewing

    When conducting interviews: Do be careful of the types of questions you ask. See the page on Creating good survey and interview questions for more information. Do start the interview with some small talk to give both yourself and the person you are interviewing a chance to get comfortable.