Difference Between Structured and Unstructured Interviews

Difference Between Structured and Unstructured Interviews

The interviews in research are classified as structured and unstructured interviews. An interview is the most commonly used method of recording responses from the respondents in social science research. The interview is a primary source of data collection in research. Interviews can be formal or informal and they can be rigid or flexible depending on the purpose of the interview. The researcher can take the interview by himself or he can hire someone who has knowledge of conducting the interview as well as the subject of the interview.

Difference between structured and unstructured interview

Structured interview

Structured interviews are conducted with the prestructured set of questions. The interviewer can conduct these interviews face to face with the respondents or on the telephone. The purpose of these interviews is not to yield in-depth information but to yield uniform information that can be easily compared. An interviewer with fewer skills of taking interviews can also conduct such interviews.


  • Structured interviews provide uniformity in the interviews. Suppose there are more than one interviewers interviewing several respondents so having a structured interview will bring uniformity in the interviews.
  • Structured interviews are easy to analyze and interpret than an unstructured interview.
  • The interviewer does not require special skills to conduct a structured interview because he/she has to follow a given pattern.


  • A structured interview may not yield as detailed information as an unstructured interview will yield. The interviewer only asks predesigned questions.
  • As the questions are prestructured any question that the researcher may want to ask other than the interview schedule will not be possible.

Unstructured interview

Unstructured interviews are conducted with an aim to yield in-depth information from the respondents. Some topics need to be dealt with care and they require skilled interviewers who can develop spontaneous questions while assessing the situation. Unstructured interviews are very useful tool in data collection in research though the interviewer needs to be skilled. They are very flexible since there is no predesigned set of questions and may also be used in the situations where less is known already by the interviewer.


  • The basic advantage of an unstructured interview is that it yields in-depth information, the interviewer can record the gestures and the body language of the interviewee as well.
  • In an unstructured interview, the researcher can create questions as it is required so he/she has more opportunity to control the situation.
  • Unstructured interviews are more flexible.


  • These interviewer bias can be introduced especially if the person taking interview has any prejudices about the subject or the interviewee.
  • An unstructured interview requires skills because the interviewer has to create questions spontaneously.
  • The interviewer also needs to have knowledge of when and how he should ask questions and how to ask touchy questions. He has to control the situation so he should be knowledgeable and skilled.
  • Comparability is also difficult in the unstructured interviews since every interview yield different set of questions and answers. A very skilled interviewer can only conduct such interviews.



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