How to Write Effective Qualitative Interview Questions

user research methods, user interview questions

Qualitative interviewing is a valuable skill for user researchers to understand their target audience. Crafting effective questions is crucial to gather desired information efficiently. This article provides best practices for creating session guides and questions that produce great results.

Qualitative interviews are a research method that involves open-ended questions to gather data from participants on their experiences, perspectives, and opinions. It is an effective way to understand the subjective experiences of individuals and explore complex topics. However, writing effective qualitative interview questions can be challenging.

Here are some tips to help you write effective qualitative interview questions:

Start with open-ended questions:

Open-ended questions allow participants to express their views in their own words. They can provide rich, detailed responses that can help you understand their perspectives. Avoid yes or no questions as they do not provide much insight into the participant’s experiences.

Use follow-up questions:

Follow-up questions allow you to explore a participant’s response in more detail. They can help you understand the context behind the participant’s answer and clarify any confusion. Make sure your follow-up questions are open-ended and explore the participant’s views in-depth.

Avoid leading questions:

Leading questions can bias the participant’s response, and lead them to answer in a certain way. Avoid questions that suggest an answer or use leading language. Instead, focus on neutral language that allows the participant to share their experience and perspective.

Avoid jargon:

Employ clear and easily comprehensible language. Steer clear of jargon or complex terminology that might puzzle the participant. If you need to use specialized language, be sure to provide an explanation so that the participant can grasp the question.

Use probing questions:

Probing questions encourage participants to provide more detail and expand on their responses. They can help you understand the participant’s experience in more detail. Examples of probing questions include: “Can you tell me more about that?” or “What do you mean by that?

Consider the context:

Consider the context of the participant’s experiences and tailor your questions accordingly. For example, if you are researching experiences of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may want to ask questions about their experiences during the pandemic, their concerns about their safety, and the impact on their mental health.

Pilot test your questions:

Pilot testing your questions can help you identify any issues with your questions before you start your study. It can help you refine your questions and ensure that they are clear and effective.

User interview questions

Here are some examples of effective qualitative interview questions:

  1. Can you tell me about a time when you felt discriminated against in the workplace?
  2. How did you respond to this situation?
  3. Can you describe your experience with chronic pain? How has it impacted your daily life?
    Can you tell me about a time when you received exceptional customer service? What made it exceptional?
  4. Can you describe your experience with online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic? How has it impacted your education?
  5. Can you tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision? How did you approach the decision-making process?

Writing effective qualitative interview questions can be challenging, but it is an important part of the research process. By using open-ended questions, follow-up questions, avoiding leading questions, using probing questions, considering the context, and pilot testing your questions, you can ensure that your questions are effective in gathering rich, detailed data from participants.

Ask Open-Ended Questions Instead of Closed Questions

Using closed-ended questions ( “yes” or “no”) might confine participants to simple affirmative or negative responses, while employing open-ended questions encourages participants to offer more intricate narratives about their encounters. This approach includes detailing specific incidents or circumstances that triggered feelings of discrimination. Open-ended queries possess the potential to draw out elaborate and subtle feedback from participants, offering valuable insights for comprehending their experiences and viewpoints on a deeper level. During qualitative interviews, opting for open-ended questions is generally more potent, enabling participants to articulate their thoughts and experiences using their own expressions. This stands in contrast to closed questions, which could curtail the breadth and depth of their replies.

Differentiate Between Quantitative and Qualitative Questions

Quantitative and qualitative questions are two types of research questions that serve different purposes in collecting and analyzing data. Here are the main differences between the two:


Quantitative questions aim to measure the frequency or degree of a particular variable or phenomenon, while qualitative questions aim to understand the meaning and complexity of a phenomenon.

Data type:

Quantitative questions typically produce numerical data, which can be analyzed statistically, while qualitative questions typically produce non-numerical data, such as text or images, which require different methods of analysis.


Quantitative questions are usually structured, with predetermined response options or scales, while qualitative questions are unstructured, with open-ended prompts that allow for more flexibility and depth in the participant’s response.

Sample size:

Quantitative questions are often asked to a large sample size to ensure statistical significance, while qualitative questions are usually asked to a smaller sample size to gain in-depth insights.

Data analysis:

Quantitative questions rely on numbers and statistics to study data and make conclusions. On the other hand, qualitative questions use techniques like sorting, grouping, and finding common themes in data to spot trends and patterns.

To sum it up, quantitative questions help measure and put numbers to data, while qualitative questions aid in exploring and deeply understanding intricate topics.

Examples of qualitative questions:

  1. What are the experiences of women who have recently given birth in hospital settings?
  2. How do teachers understand and respond to instances of student misbehavior in the classroom?
  3. What are the cultural factors that influence attitudes towards mental health in a particular community?
  4. How do employees perceive the impact of remote work on their job satisfaction and work-life balance?
  5. What are the coping mechanisms used by individuals who have experienced trauma in their lives?

These questions are open-ended and aim to explore the experiences, perceptions, and attitudes of individuals or groups. They typically require detailed and nuanced responses, and the data collected can be analyzed using qualitative methods such as thematic analysis, content analysis, or discourse analysis.

Examples of quantitative questions:

  1. What percentage of high school students participate in after-school sports programs?
  2. How does age impact the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes?
  3. What is the correlation between student performance on standardized tests and family income?
  4. What is the average commute time for residents in a particular city?
  5. How many people in a given population have received the COVID-19 vaccine?

These inquiries are designed to gauge and put specific numbers to data. They usually demand a bigger group of data points, and the information gathered can be scrutinized using statistical techniques like regression analysis, ANOVA, or correlation assessment. Research questions centered around quantitative analysis frequently entail gathering numerical data via surveys, experiments, or other organized methods of data collection.

Wrap up

Although there are some basic tips and good ways to do qualitative interviews, the methods can change based on the situation and what the research aims to find out. Interviewers need to be open to change and ready to adjust. They should work on creating a good connection with the people they’re interviewing and asking questions that bring out lots of important details. In the end, how well qualitative research works depends on getting really good information and the researcher being able to understand and use that information in a way that’s accurate and helpful.

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