Qualitative Interview

The qualitative interview’s goal and strength is to find the essence of acknowledged and unacknowledged needs and wishes in different situations and life stages. As such, it is a crucial starting point for innovation, particularly user-driven innovation.

Best used for


Time to introduce this activity in lecture / Time to run this activity

45 min / several days

In the context of Digital Social Impact courses and learning activities

Interviewing is an essential technique to gather primary data in any environment. In social impact it might play an even bigger role as in other contexts, as it is even more important to really understand the challenges faced by society and interviews with affected groups are a great way for this

Main Target Group

Students with potential users

Potential tools for digitising this activity

Video call – Teams, Zoom

Step by Step

1 Before the Interview. Students should consider who their users/informants are and the language that should be used. The relevance and context is crucial for the method and therefore, the choice of informant/s is important

  • Advise students that they should do only interview with one person at a time and ensure that the informant is not distracted, by their telephone, etc.. Record the interview with a recording device to ensure that you get everything documented
  • Students should allow plenty of time for the interview. They shouldn’t expect any real substance to come out of the first 10 minutes of the interview.
  • Establishing trust and creating a comfortable atmosphere so the informant feels safe is important. 


2 During the Interview. Students should begin the interview by ‘Please describe…’ or ‘Please tell me something about…’. Remind them that the informant is the expert and that they are the ones being taught. The shorter the questions and the longer the answers, the better the interview.

  • Students ought to begin with the overall subject area, as opposed to a specific product or situation. They are fishing for information on how the informant behaves – her habits, what her daily life is like.
  • Advise them to ask W-questions. Who, what, how, why, where and when. Constantly use what your informant is saying as an opportunity for deeper questioning. Take breaks. Allow some time for informant afterthought as it can stimulate interesting reflections.
  • Students can use various tools under the interview. For example, let the informant write or draw the most important points. This is particularly useful for finding out what the informant finds most important (often times, this is not the same as what you hear).

3 After the Interview. Students should listen to the interview with their notes in front of them. And work to identify new ideas and situations.