MY423      Half Unit
Interview Methods for Social Science Research

This information is for the 2023/24 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 practical dimensions of interviews as a data collection method for social science research. In so doing, the course also engages with epistemological concerns, such as what kinds of claims interview data can be used to make. While this course does not require any pre-requisites, it takes a deep and narrow approach in its focus on semi-structured interviews. 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:

  • Understand and implement the key principles for planning, designing, and executing an interview based study;
  • Understand and implement the key principles in how to conduct interviews that yield rich data;
  • Understand the key elements in interview data;
  • Evaluate published research that draws on interview data.

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). While the focus will generally be on the practical dimensions, students will also learn about some of the epistemological debates pertaining to these considerations.

The type of interviews this course will focus on will be semi-structured one-on-one interviews, which constitute one of the most common data collection methods in qualitative social science research. However, other types of interviews and related methods (such as couple interviews and 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 practical skills and epistemological background 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 debates in each topic as well as gain some practical experience.

The required text for this course is Annette Lareau's book Listening to People. Each week will usually have two required readings, typically one "method" and one "example" reading as well as several optional readings. The required readings 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?
  2. What kind of a sample do you need?
  3. Ethics and reflexivity
  4. What, how, and when should you ask?
  5. Conducting interviews
  6. Reading week
  7. Special groups: Interviewing Elites
  8. Data Analysis
  9. Writing up an interview-based study to compellingly answer strong research questions
  10. Evaluating interview research
  11. Summing up: Course review and outstanding questions


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

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 required 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.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2022/23: 29

Average class size 2022/23: 13

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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