An interview is a formal meeting, where one or more persons question/consult/assess another person, such as in a job interview. When gathering evidence on a peer program, we can use interviews to collect information about how we are performing against a specific objective. Such interviews can be conducted face-to-face or by telephone with key stakeholders such as peer group members, funders and team members. They can range from in-depth, semi-structured to unstructured depending on the information we are wanting to collect.
Each interview method has its advantages. With face-to-face interviews, you can ask questions that are more detailed and probe answers for rich data. In face-to-face situations, non-verbal data can be collected through observation by the interviewer, and issues that are more complex are able to be explored. However, face-to-face interviews are expensive and time consuming. They use more resources, which are already likely to be very limited. The person doing the interviewing also needs training to reduce potential bias and undertake all interviews, in a standardised way. Evidence suggests that telephone interviews can provide just as accurate data as face-to-face ones. They are also cheaper and faster to conduct, use fewer resources, still allow the interviewer to clarify questions from the responder. They also do not require the responder to have literacy skills. Nonetheless, telephone interviews are not without their challenges. These include, having to make repeated calls because they may not be answered the first time, potential bias towards those who are at home, if other interviewees neglect to call back. It is only accessible to those with a telephone and finally, these calls are usually only suitable for short surveys.
SELF STUDY Q5.4
In what situations/scenarios would you use an interview to collect evidence rather than a survey?
Interviews can generate ideas from one on one discussions. However, they also encompass focus groups, which are another method, sometimes used, in the peer support space. These group discussions are useful for further exploring a topic, providing in turn, a broader understanding of why the target group may think/behave in a particular way. They are usually undertaken with a small number of people from your group and are used to gain greater insights on more complex issues. For example, they may be appropriate if you are trying to gain an understanding of the reasons behind a particular attitude/belief held by people who are not choosing to attend your peer groups. While focus groups do not require participants to be literate, it obviously does not enable anonymity and being in a group means there is a lack of privacy. When planning focus groups it is important to carefully balance participants and ensure each group has a good mix across factors that may affect the feedback gathered. There is a risk of the group result being a ‘group think’, which does not accurately reflect individual attitudes/beliefs. There is also the potential for the group to be dominated by one or two people. Therefore, the focus group leader needs to be skilled/experienced in dealing with conflict, drawing out passive participants and creating a relaxed, welcoming environment. Focus groups may be lengthy to plan and conduct. Analysing outcomes from them can also be difficult and time consuming.