One-to-one interviews

One-to-one interviews

A meeting where 2 people, a researcher and a participant, have a conversation. Interviews can be used to discuss pre-determined topics using a questionnaire structure, flow freely or a mix of both.

  • Time to do: normally 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Staff: 1
  • Cost: £
  • Equipment: a private space, note-taking materials, recording equipment (if used and permission given)
  • one-to-one
  • face-to-face
  • at a distance, using telephone or video-conference

How to do it

  • Decide in advance which approach you want to take:
    • highly-structured interviews follows an exact questionnaire format
    • semi-structured interviews use 5 or 6 main questions to frame the conversation but allow for free talk
    • unstructured interviews allow the conversation to flow freely between researcher and participant
  • Allow enough time for participants to consider and then answer and discuss each question or point raised.
  • Provide a summary of each topic, answer or statement before you move on to the next question or point. This validates with the participant that you have understood them correctly.
  • Summarise at the end of the session to validate the conclusions of the conversation with the participant.


Communication tools such as Talking Mats can help support people to make the most of the interview.


  • Accommodates people who prefer individual rather than group situations
  • Particularly suitable for "quieter" or "unheard voices" including people from groups or communites where speaking in front of a group is more difficult (Cinderby 2010)
  • Allows people to share personal or confidential experiences in a safe setting
  • Can be used to explore topics in more detail than is possible in, or used in addition to, another techniques such as focus groups


  • Sticking to time
  • Keeping on topic in semi-structured and unstructured interviews

More information

  • Cinderby, Steve. (2009). How to reach the 'hard-to-reach': The development of Participatory Geographic Information Systems (P-GIS) for inclusive urban design in UK cities. Area. 42. 239 - 251. 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2009.00912.x.

Last Updated: 29 March 2021