Qualitative interview techniques

Methodology courses and philosophy of science

Course information

Number of sessions: 3
Hours per session: 3
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • €525,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School)

In the academic year 2020-2021  two sessions of this course will take place online.
The third session will take place on campus in Rotterdam as roleplay with an actor is involved.

Session 1
November 26 (Thursday) 2020

Session 2
December 3 (Thursday) 2020

Session 3
December 10 (Thursday) 2020


We will discuss crucial theoretical, methodological and practical concerns of qualitative interviewing, with a particular focus on the practicalities of using this method. Overall, the course will have a specific focus on design and the practice of asking open-ended questions.

Working method

There are three sessions of three hours each, which will include a mix of instructions, role-plays and in-class exercises. 

The first session will explicate the knowledge-theoretical background of qualitative interviewing and look at how to incorporate the method within a research design. Participants are asked to bring a description of their own existing or prospective research (see assignment 1 below).

The second session will teach participants the work that goes into preparing an in-depth qualitative interview. Participants will work with their own interview topic lists (see assignment 2 below), which will be used during live in-class interview exercises. We will, moreover, practice with asking open-ended interview questions. To this end, we will record some of the exercises so that participants can watch and learn to improve themselves.

In the third session, we will further polish interviewing skills with the help of a role-play actor. We will look at dealing with sensitive information and difficult or uncomfortable situations that may arise during an interview. 

Learning objectives

After completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Describe the knowledge-theoretical background of qualitative interviewing;
  • Explain different scientific approaches to interviewing;
  • Make an informed decision about when and when not to use qualitative interviewing;
  • Argue how a specific type of qualitative interviewing fits your research design;
  • Design a topic list for an in-depth interview;
  • Conduct yourself in a way that people are more willing to describe the details and sensitive aspects of their lives;  
  • Probe and ask further questions based on the answers of research participants;
  • Deal with difficult or uncomfortable situations. 

Suitable for

This course is open to everyone with an interest in doing qualitative interviewing as research method. No specific skills or prior experience with qualitative interviewing are required for attending the course.

How to prepare

In order to actively participate in this course you are required to read the prescribed literature and view a number of video lectures on Canvas.

Assignment 1:
For the first session, participants are asked to bring a short description (of no more than 400 words) of their own existing or prospective research. This description should include:

  • A short introduction on the topic;
  • the research question, and;
  • the prospective method, describing the respondents, questions and structure of your interviews.

If you are not (yet) conducting a study of your own, you may submit the design of a fictitious study.

Assignment 2:
For the second session, participants have to design their own interview topic list. This topic list should be related to their own research and build on assignment 1. 

Please email your research design and topic list to vanbohemen@essb.eur.nl a week before the first and second session.

Session descriptions

Session 1
Introducing qualitative interviewing

  • This session introduces the knowledge-theoretical background of qualitative interviewing.
  • We will discuss different scientific approaches to interviewing.
  • We will specifically look at how to incorporate the method into your specific research design.

Session 2
Open interviewing as practice

  • This session introduces qualitative interviewing as a type of verbal and non-verbal practice.
  • We will cover the practical side of preparing an in-depth interview and designing a topic list.
  • More than that, we will specifically look at developing your skills in interviewing.

Session 3
Dealing with sensitive topics and difficult situations

  • This session will further expand your skills in conducting in-depth interviews;
  • We will look at dealing with sensitive interview topics and information;
  • We will discuss difficult or uncomfortable situations and how to manage them.

About the instructor

Niels van Poecke is a lecturer in Aesthetics and Sociology of Arts and Culture at the Department of Arts and Culture Studies. 
He completed his doctoral thesis on indie-folk music and the search for authenticity in contemporary modernity. He has won various awards for his work, including the ‘National Popscriptie Prijs’ and the Young Scholar Award at the 2016 International Congress of Aesthetics in Seoul, South-Korea.