Structured Interview: Definition, Process & Example

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  • 0:01 Structured Interview
  • 1:47 Structured Interview Process
  • 2:44 More Examples
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Psychologists and researchers often use structured interviews in order to gain information in an efficient and streamlined manner. Learn more about structured interviews through examples in this lesson, and then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition and Example of a Structured Interview

Lyle is a psychologist that has just opened his own practice. After seeing a few clients, he realizes he's spending lots of time collecting basic client background information such as age, education level, symptoms, legal history, and religious information. Lyle asks a few of his therapist friends how he could collect this information in an efficient manner. One suggestion that Lyle receives is to use a structured interview.

A structured interview is when all questions are prepared in advance. This is in contrast to an unstructured interview, in which there is no specific set of predetermined questions, and the interviewer is able to change the questions at any time and ask follow-up questions to the interviewee's responses. There are many ways in which you can conduct structured interviews. For example, you can conduct them over the phone, face-to-face, over the Internet, using computer programs, such as Skype, or using videophone.

Structured interview questions can be open-ended or closed-ended. Closed-ended questions ask respondents for specific pieces of information, and often require the respondent to choose from a list of given alternatives. A closed-ended question might be, 'Are you currently taking any drugs (prescribed or un-prescribed)?' Here, the respondent can either answer by saying yes or no. There is no room for elaboration.

Open-ended questions are those that can be answered in many ways and allow the respondent to give elaborate, thoughtful answers. An open-ended question that Lyle might want to ask in his structured interview is, 'Can you list any symptoms you have experienced within the past two weeks?' The respondent could list any symptoms that they choose and are not limited to a few responses.

Structured Interview Process

Before you conduct a structured interview, you want to make sure that you clarify the focus and objective of the interview. In other words, what is the focus of the interview and what are your goals? You need to figure out what method you're going to use to conduct the interview (i.e. face-to-face or over the phone). You need to develop an interview schedule, which is a list of questions you're going to ask during your interview.

During the interview, it's important to make sure that you're sticking to the interview schedule. Structured interviews are standardized and follow a fixed format, and questions are given in a specific order. This means that each person being interviewed is asked the same set of questions in the exact same order in the exact same way. By doing this, you are increasing the reliability, or consistency, of your interviews. The interviewer strictly sticks to the questions listed on the interview schedule and does not follow up on an interviewee's answer.

More Examples of a Structured Interview

John is a researcher interested in marital satisfaction among students pursuing a doctorate degree. He has spent several years reading literature related to this topic and decided to focus on length and quality of marriage. John designs a structured interview in which he will ask all the participants the following questions in order:

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