Key Informant Interviews
This section covers:
- What are key informant interviews?
- Advantages and disadvantages of interviewing
- How to conduct a key informant interview? (ðical guidelines)
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 testimonials||Danger 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 of||There may be a need to reward some interviewees and/ or to pay for the services of an interpreter/ translator|