Key Informant Interviews

This section covers:

What are Key Informant Interviews?

These are taken to equate here to in-depth, individual interviews which are either unstructured (completely free), structured (strict adherence to a set of questions) or more commonly semi-structured (set questions with scope for follow-ups and free discussion).

Other types of interview are discussed under our Theory-Based 1-2-3 approach to evaluation, including semi-structured interviews (which are a broader category than key informant interviews), community/ group interviews and snapshot interviews.

Key informant interviews involve a set of (pre-prepared but not rigidly applied) open and closed questions. They are a useful way of capturing softer data and of fact-checking claims or assumptions about a project/ programme. These interviews can offer rich data and tend to last between half an hour and an hour. An interpreter may be required so consider building in the possible costs and extra transcription time associated.

You need to work out who the key people are you need to interview, as well as when and why. You cannot do such in-depth interviews with everyone. So, who are the key beneficiaries or stakeholders or participants, perhaps also from your own organisation? Sometimes you may just have to go with whoever is available but if you plan well enough in advance, you increase your chances of getting better quality data.

These (often semi-structured) interviews are conducted with individuals who are well placed to provide first-hand insights into your subject matter. Such interviewees may include:

  • Patients in a drug addiction clinic who show variation in their response to a particular challenge
  • Some addicts who are on the street and unregistered
  • Others recorded on a local government register
  • Individuals who are living at home
  • Others who have expertise in relation to the group or subject you are studying (e.g. social workers or paramedics) or who are less directly affected by your project (e.g. stakeholders such as local government officials, secondary school teachers, local hospital staff).

Think Outside The Box

Don’t forget that it may also be worth interviewing your local partners and other members of your own NGO. They may be naturally predisposed to offering positive feedback but can also provide unexpected insights.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Interviewing

Rich source of qualitative data  There can be issues of access to interviewees and suspicion of your motives, concerns over the anonymity of the interviewee
Good for checking assumptions and capturing impressions, attitudes, reasons for behaviour. Great source of testimonialsDanger of ‘happy talk’. Interiewees may just tell you what you want to hear
Useful for establishing outcomes / impact: has the behaviour of participants changed? Have their lives been transformed?Particular care is needed when dealing with children and vulnerable adults
Get round problem (e.g. with surveys) that some interviewees may be illiterate There’s only so many interviews you can do
Provide insights and cultural reference points which Northern NGOs often simply would not think ofThere may be a need to reward some interviewees and/ or to pay for the services of an interpreter/ translator

For details of how to conduct such interviews, click here. See also our ethical guidelines surrounding the interview process.

Where to next?

Click here to return to the top of the page, here for step 3 (Data Checking) and here for other types of interviews