A style of interviewing in which the interviewer asks only general questions and encourages the interviewee to discuss what he considers important. The interviewer probes for additional details and does not introduce ideas or evaluate what is said. This approach is useful in determining what factors enter into a person’s decision making. Thus, it could help in identifying variables for judgmental bootstrapping, conjoint analysis, or econometric models It can also be useful in developing a structured questionnaire, such as might be used for intentions surveys. Here are some guidelines for the interview.
Start by explaining what you would like to learn – e.g., “what factors cause changes in the sales of your primary product?” If a general opener does not draw a response, try something more specific – e.g., “perhaps you could describe how product x did last year?”
During the interview:
Do not evaluate what the interviewee says. If he feels that he is being judged, he is likely to reveal less.
Let the interviewee know that you’re interested in what he says and that you understand. To find out more about a particular subject that is mentioned by the interviewee, ask for elaboration – e.g., “that’s interesting, tell me more.” Or you may use a reflection of the interviewee’s comments – “You seem to think that . . .” often picking up the last few words used by the interviewee.
Do not interrupt. Let the interviewee carry the conversation once he gets going.
Do not bring in your own ideas during the interview.
Do not worry about pauses in the conversation. People may get uncomfortable during pauses, but do not be in a hurry to talk if it is likely that the interviewee is thinking.