Toolkit 3: In-depth interviewing


Why use in-depth interviewing?

In the From Boys to Men project in-depth interviews were used to explore young men’s accounts of violence:

  • what had happened to them?
  • what had they been exposed to?
  • what violence had they themselves perpetrated?
  • how had they and others responded to violence?
  • what, if anything, had helped them come to terms with their own and others’ violence?

In-depth interviews are a powerful means of generating data that better help us address ‘why’ questions about violence:

  • why people perpetrate it;
  • why they put up with it;
  • why some people but not others respond ‘in kind’ to it;
  • why some people regret using it;
  • why, sometimes, people are able to come to terms with it and/or forgive those who have used it against them.

Such questions are often side-stepped in evaluation research where the priority is to discover what works. As evidence has shown from the From Boys to Men project, however, not all men with experiences of violence are the same, and there thus remains a need for practitioners to take stock of the kinds of histories, needs and problems that young men with violence issues present.

Addressing such questions requires an approach to research that is responsive and versatile. Researchers undertaking in-depth interviewing need always to be alive to the words used by participants and to use these specific words in the questions they ask. They need also, as far as is possible, to be able to ‘think on their feet’ and be sensitive to what the interviewee has not said or cannot say, perhaps because they are ashamed, fearful of stigma, or because for them the experience defies verbalization because its traumatic nature.

The resources necessary to support you in conducting this type of research can be found in the following sections: