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Social Research: Methods

3. Interviews

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In this module, we consider three types of interview commonly used in social research: (i) the structured interview, which is often associated with the survey method and comprises of closed questions (for example, ticking a box) intended to produce easily comparable and quantifiable data; (ii) the unstructured or focused interview, which is much more open and flexible and is intended to allow respondents to express themselves in their own terms; (iii) the semi-structured interview, which consists of both open and closed questions and is often favoured by researchers because it provides both quantitative data and interpretative understanding.


In this course, Professor Tim May (University of Sheffield) explores several different methods commonly used in social research and outlines how they are applied in practice. In the first module, we look at official statistics, the ways in which they are important for researchers, and debates around their trustworthiness as factual representations of society. The second introduces surveys and how they are constructed, and the third considers three types of interview – the structured, the semi-structured and the unstructured/focused. In the fourth module, we think about observation, both participant and non-participant, and examine some of the practical and ethical issues associated with it as a method. In the final module, we briefly survey some other important social research methods – documentary research, case studies, digital research, and comparative analysis.


Professor Tim May is a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield. He has a wide range of expertise relating to research methodologies, sociological theory, and the philosophy of social science. His recent publications include Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process (2021, co-authored with Beth Perry), Thinking Sociologically (2019, co-authored with Zygmunt Bauman), Reflexivity: The Essential Guide (2017, co-authored with Beth Perry).

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APA style

May, T. (2022, January 26). Social Research: Methods - Interviews [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

May, T. "Social Research: Methods – Interviews." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Jan 2022,

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