MY423      Half Unit
Interview Methods for Social Science Research

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr. Aliya Hamid Rao, Assistant Professor, Department of Methodology. 


This course is available on the Global MSc in Management, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po), MSc in Gender, MSc in Gender (Research), MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities, MSc in Human Rights and Politics, MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies, MSc in Media, Communication and Development, MSc in Political Sociology and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


This course focuses on the epistemological and practical dimensions of interviews as a data collection method for social science research. While it does not require any pre-requisites, the course takes a deep and narrow approach in its focus on interview methods. This course will consider sampling, recruitment, and ethical concerns that arise particular to interviews. Such considerations will be discussed throughout the course through readings, lectures, and seminars. Students seeking an introductory overview of qualitative methods are advised to see MY421/521. This course is designed to be most useful to those with some familiarity with qualitative methods broadly, and for those who come to the course with some sense of an interview study they want to conduct.

Course content

This course will provide students with the skills to design, carry out, and write up a primarily interview-based study. Students will start off by learning what kinds of research questions can suitably be answered by the data usually collected through interviews. They will learn about the considerations that go into designing a largely interview-based study (including: recruitment, sample parameters, and interview guides), and the epistemological debates pertaining to these considerations. The second part of the course focuses on data analysis and writing up interview-based studies, again contending with the complexities of different approaches to analysing interview data. 

The course takes a "research cycle" approach to interviews in its structure. The type of interviews this course will focus on will be one-on-one interviews, however other types of interviews and related methods (such as couple interviews, group interviews, ethnography will be referenced typically as a way to highlight how the data collected from one-on-one interview methods differs from these other related, but distinct, methods). The focus on one-on-one interviews is because when it comes to interviewing this is a predominant way of conducting interviews in the social sciences. This course is designed to give students the epistemological background and practical skills to design and complete their own, individual, interview-based studies. This course may be particularly useful for students intending to conduct their own interview-based studies. The course is comprised of 10 lectures (of 90 mins each) which introduce the main conceptual and practical issues. 9 seminars (90 minutes each) provide a space to dive deeper into the epistemological debates in each topic as well as gain some practical experience

The required text for this course is Annette Lareau's "Listening to People". Each week will have 2 required readings, one "method" and one "example" reading as well as several optional readings. These will be made available through the Reading List in Moodle. 

An indicative structure of the course is below. Please note this is subject to being amended.

  1. Introduction: What can interviews tell us? (Appropriate research questions for interview-based studies, and claims-making through interviews)
  2. What kind of a sample do you need? (Picking a site, outlining sample criteria, anticipating hurdles and figuring out workarounds).
  3. Ethics and reflexivity (Procedural, sensitive moments, power dynamics, issues of rapport, harassment of researchers in the field etc).
  4. What, how, and when should you ask? (Designing an interview guide, interview fieldnotes; analytical and methodological memos. We will also disucss how to consider sensitive moments in interviews, especially in interiews with vulnerable populations or about topics that are likely to be distressing).
  5. Conducting interviews (Lecture will be me conducting an interview. No seminars, instead, learning by doing: use that time to conduct two interviews. I will have office hours during seminar time to meet individually).
  6. Reading week
  7. Special groups: Interviewing Elites 
  8. Data Analysis I (Thematic)
  9. Data Analysis I (Thematic contd)
  10. Data Analysis III (Abductive)
  11. Sum up: Writing up an interview-based study to compellingly answer strong research questions


15 hours of lectures and 13 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

The formative assessment consists of the students uploading the following in a single word document to Moodle, in this order:

  • 2 Interview memos (each 1.5 pages, single-spaced, max, with a methodological and analytical component. Detailed instructions will be provided to students);
  • 2 single-spaced pages of one interview transcript (consecutive pages, and ideally ones on which students want some feedback, single spaced).

Indicative reading

There is required book for the course: Listening to People, by Annette Lareau. The remainder of the readings will be made available to students through Reading List in Moodle. 


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Students will be provided with a choice of 3 essay prompts to which they must respond for their summative. The response must be a maximum of 3000 words. The prompts will pertain to contemporary discussions about the role of interviews as a method in social science research. Students will be asked to draw on their own experience of conducting interviews for this course to make support the argument they make in the response.

The summative is designed to assess students grasp of the epistemological debates pertaining to interviews in social science research along with their own practice of having used this method in the duration of the course.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

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Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills