Muller Journal of Medical Sciences and Research

: 2018  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 41--42

Use of in-depth interviews in medical education research

Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava1, Prateek Saurabh Shrivastava2, Jegadeesh Ramasamy2,  
1 Department of Community Medicine, Member of the Medical Education Unit and Medical Research Unit, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava
3rd Floor, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Ammapettai Village, Thiruporur-Guduvancherry Main Road, Sembakkam Post, Kancheepuram - 603 108, Tamil Nadu

How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Use of in-depth interviews in medical education research.Muller J Med Sci Res 2018;9:41-42

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Use of in-depth interviews in medical education research. Muller J Med Sci Res [serial online] 2018 [cited 2023 Feb 6 ];9:41-42
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Full Text

Dear Editor,

In-depth interviews (IDIs) have been regarded as one of the most common qualitative research methods for data collection predominantly because it provides a human face to the research problems.[1] IDIs have been found extremely useful in medical education research to gain an insight into the perspectives of teachers or learners, as it encourages them to converse about their personal feelings, opinions, and experiences.[1] Simultaneously, it gives an opportunity for the researcher to understand the varied ways in which individuals interpret things and derive a meaning out of different issues.[1],[2] Moreover, such interviews can be of immense help to address sensitive issues faced by a learner, which they might feel shy to discuss during class.[2]

The key principle of the IDI is that the interviewed person is regarded as the expert, while the interviewer is a student, who has the desire to imbibe everything the respondent can share about the research area.[1] IDIs are usually conducted face-to-face involving one interviewer and one participant, nevertheless, the interviewer has to fulfil many tasks before, during, and after the interview.[1] The participant (learner or trainer) is selected based on the study objective.[2] The interviewer has to study the interview guide, informed consent document, and should have knowledge about the research topic, so that they can respond to the doubts of the participant.[1],[2]

To ensure the success of the interview, a suitable space with a facility of recording equipment should be identified.[2],[3] At the same time, the interviewer has to demonstrate their own commitment by being reliable, punctual, and sensitive to the information shared.[2] Obtain an informed consent before the interview begins and ensure that all the questions, follow-up questions, or topics listed in the guide are covered in a neutral manner, without leading the participant toward preconceived ideas.[1],[2],[3],[4] It is the responsibility of the interviewer to probe the participants thoroughly to ensure that complete responses are elicited pertaining to their knowledge and experiences regarding the topic of interest.[3],[4] Even though the entire interview is being recorded; the interviewer should take backup notes, which should be expanded within a day of conducting the interview.[3]

This type of interview is beneficial for both respondents (it provides a scope to express them in a way which routine life never allows) and the interviewers (as it gives a chance that respondents trust the interviewers and share about their personal lives).[2],[3] In addition, it gives a chance to establish rapport with participants, so as to elicit information about sensitive issues.[3] The interviewer can ask follow-up questions to have a more detailed understanding and even observe the change in tone of voice to infer the impact of the issue.[3],[4] Further, it requires less number of participants, and there is no distraction or impact of other peers, as reported in focus groups, and hence, valuable findings can be obtained.[1]

The IDIs have some inherent limitations it is time-consuming as the findings of the interview has to be transcribed, organized, analyzed, and reported.[1],[2] In addition, the success of the process depends on the skill and experience of the interviewer and the participants, who should be selected wisely to avoid bias.[2] Further, the method is little expensive as compared to other methods, as it involves recording, but this issue can be easily handled.[1] IDIs have been employed extensively in the field of medical education research in areas such as how to improve quality of medical education, initiation of a new course, competency-based medical education, and views about some training.[1],[4]

To conclude, IDIs are an effective tool in the field of medical education research to obtain an individual's experiences, opinions, and feelings and are of immense value in addressing sensitive topics.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1Family Health International. Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector's Field Guide – Module 3 In-Depth Interviews; 2005. Available from: [Last accessed on 2017 Oct 17].
2Jamshed S. Qualitative research method-interviewing and observation. J Basic Clin Pharm 2014;5:87-8.
3Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Application of qualitative research methods in heterogeneous domains of public health: An overview. Indian J Health Sci Biomed Res 2014;7:118-20.
4Sonesson L, Boffard K, Lundberg L, Rydmark M, Karlgren K. The challenges of military medical education and training for physicians and nurses in the Nordic countries – An interview study. Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med 2017;25:38.