In-depth interviews can be conducted face-to-face or by telephone and we generally audio record them, otherwise extensive notes are made. As with focus groups, a loose topic guide ensures that the researcher covers the topics of interest to the project but allows people to explain things in their own way and to ensure that caveats and individual circumstances are captured.
In-depth interviews allow an understanding of the perspectives of specific individuals whose attitudes or behaviour may be crucial to the success of a policy or programme or who have experience of other, similar initiatives, perhaps in other countries. These individuals may be people who know the background and relevant issues well and with whom it is important to have enough time to explore things. They may be senior managers, journalists, politicians or those with public profiles such as leading scientists. Importantly, this method allows them to make unattributable or anonymised remarks, which can be invaluable in situations where a group situation may inhibit frankness.
In-depth interviews are preferable when individual stories or institutional views, rather than general discussions are required to really understand how certain people think and behave and why, and when it is important that people do not feel obliged to conform or fit-in with others. More pragmatically, it may just be too difficult to get very senior people together in the required timescale for a focus group.
We analyse the audio recordings or notes using social research analysis techniques, drawing out the themes relevant to the project objectives. This ensures that no data is lost and that our findings are as robust and actionable as possible.