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Is it called a depth interview or an in-depth interview?

November 26, 2018

I do a lot of one-to-one qualitative interviews in my line of work.

I took an A-Level in Sociology, then a degree in social sciences with honours in Sociology.  In my academic education, the teachers referred to one-to-one qualitative interviews as ‘in-depth interviews’.

After that I completed the Graduate Scheme at MORI, followed by ongoing on-the-job training, interspersed with occasional external training courses from industry bodies.  Throughout my career, colleagues have referred to one-to-one qualitative interviews as ‘depth interviews’.  Workplace style guidelines have required me to call them depth interviews, and the AQR (Association for Qualitative Research), the MRS (Market Research Society) and the SRA (Social Research Association) call them depth interviews.

So since I’ve been a professional researcher I’ve always gone with ‘depth interviews’.

I don’t know if the term ‘in-depth interviews’ is an academic thing?  But it certainly looks like the term ‘depth interviews’ is a research industry thing.

Thing is, every now an again I write a great fat report about the qual I’ve done and the client will come back querying my use of ‘depth interviews’ or citing ‘depth interviews’ as a typo or asking me to change the term ‘depth interviews’ to ‘in-depth interviews’.

So what should I do?  Should I say yes or no?  It feels weird to change it.  But is it a big deal or not?  Does it actually matter?  Is it simply part of my style guidelines, or is it a technical term that I need to stick with?  My gut says DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH but when it really comes down to it I just don’t know!

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