Richard A. Krueger








How to Conduct Individual Interviews

by Richard A. Krueger

  1. Plan the study
    • Write down what you seek to accomplish or the purpose of the study
    • Identify people you plan to interview
    • Determine location and length of interview
    • Determine who should do the interviewing
  2. Develop your questions
    • Brainstorm possible questions
    • Identify key questions and place them in the second half of the interview
    • Sequence questions-opening, transition, key, ending
    • Use open-ended questions to get new ideas and opinions
    • Use close-ended questions for details and facts
    • Anticipate length of each answer and finish on time
  3. Pilot test the questions
    • Test questions with friends, colleagues and family members
    • Test questions with a few people like those you intend to interview and ask advice
  4. Interview and take notes
    • Place your complete attention on the interview
    • Have it in a comfortable, relaxing place
    • Be conversational
    • Begin with topics of interest to the interviewee
    • Food may be helpful
    • Probe for amplification
    • Be patient--learn to pause
    • Be careful about verbal and nonverbal cues
    • Tape record if possible
    • Take field notes
  5. Prepare a summary soon after the interview
    • Prepare a summary immediately after the interview
    • Highlight the key points and notable quotes
  6. Issues that often surface in individual interviews
    • Cross-cultural interviews require more sensitivity
    • Don't lead the interviewee to give the answer you desire or expect
    • The interviewee may request that some answers be confidential. This means you can report the answer as long as others cannot determine the source.

Suggestions for quality interviews


  • Put the interviewee at ease. Find a comfortable and private place for the interview. Spend a few moments getting acquainted before asking your questions. Begin with easy questions.


  • Prepare questions in advance to have a logical sequence.
  • Know your questions well so you can be conversational.


  • Reweave earlier comments into later questions.
  • Be ready to ask the same question in different words if the person seems to be confused.
  • Know which questions are most important. Drop lesser important questions if time is short.
  • Just because someone is talking doesn't mean they are answering your question. If your question is not answered, ask it again.


  • Analysis and reporting begin with a brief statement of the problem that gave rise to the study. Write a paragraph describing how the study was conducted. In this paragraph describe the situation, environment, questions, research team, those interviewed, etc.
  • Prepare a brief summary of each person interviewed. Listen to the audio tape and use field notes as you prepare this summary. Structure the summary so it goes question by question.
  • Summarize each question across all subjects. Describe the variation of answers. Look for patterns, themes, or overarching concepts.
  • Use bullets to highlight key points. If possible, compare and contrast findings across sites, categories, etc.


Patton, M. Q. (1987). How to use qualitative methods in evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

University of Arizona CYFER Net Evaluation

The Use of Qualitative Interviews in Evaluation (Arizona)



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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.