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how to present, analyze, and interpret interview data

How to Present, Analyze, and Interpret Interview Data

The most difficult job in using interview as a data collection instrument is to present, analyze, and interpret interview data. Interview data is qualitative and qualitative data needs to be analyzed in a manner that can prove its trustworthiness. As Anderson (2010) says “Qualitative research is often criticized as biased, small scale, anecdotal, and/or lacking rigor; however, when it is carried out properly it is unbiased, in depth, valid, reliable, credible and rigorous”. Various researchers in the qualitative research have devised methods to present, analyze, and interpret interview data (qualitative data) in an effective manner.

Difficulties in presenting interview data

The following might be the type of difficulties that you will face in presenting the interview data

  1. Interview data is almost always detailed and the manuscript has a limitation on the number of words that you can use. You have to present only the key elements of the interview in your manuscripts so it does not take a lot of it. It means that the the researcher needs to have an expertise in analyzing data in a manner that yields only useful details.
  2. Some students face difficulty in understanding the difference between what part of the interview is directly related to the research question and what is not.
  3. As interview data is non-numerical presenting in tabulated form is not easier. There are complex concepts that cannot be broken down into numerical method. Tabulated data is far easier to analyze and interpret.


  1. The methods section of the manuscript should provide an outline of the interview briefly. The questions that are most important can be described in detail. Briefly explain the participant selection criteria, sampling procedure, participants consent, data collection and analysis techniques. Do not go any further in detail than the necessity. In the results and discussion section describe precisely and concisely about the themes that emerged from your analysis.
  2. Always remember that the minor details that are not directly related to the research question need not explained in detail it will make your research boring and will take too much space. It will also take away readers concentration from the more important aspects of the interview that are directly related to the research question.
  3. Although it is difficult but consider using table to present your interview data. Tabulated data will be much easier for the audience to understand. Use charts along with tables to present interview data. Highlight the most significant points in the interview data in the charts and tables.

Difficulties in analyzing and interpreting interview data

  1. The quality of the interview data analysis highly depends on the expertise of the researcher. Sometimes consciously or unconsciously the researcher introduces bias in the interview data analysis.
  2. The problems arises in maintaining and demonstrating rigor in the analysis of interview data.
  3. Analysis and interpretation is time consuming as there is lengthy data.
  4. It is difficult to do the visual presentation of the interview data.


  1. The researcher can use various ways to improve the validity and reliability of the interview data analysis. If the problem is related to researcher’s expertise it can be solved by using “peer debriefing technique”. Even expert researchers use peer debriefing to improve the validity of data analysis.
  2. The problem of rigor can be successfully solved using some widely accepted data analysis method. One way to analyze interview data or other type of qualitative data is by the use of thematic analysis.
  3. The researcher should find out interesting elements in the data and in each step of the analysis reduces the unnecessary data that is provided by the interviewee.
  4. The visual presentation of interview data can be made easier by identifying themes and concepts in the data at initial stage of data analysis. The themes will help you take your analysis in a systematic way. It will also help you reduce cumbersome unnecessary details in the data.
Interview is a one-to-one technique to collect data

Example of the analysis of interview questions

The following example is just to exemplify how to analyze an interview question in the best possible manner.

For example, an interview is conducted in a real life setting in a hospital environment. The interviewer is interested in knowing the satisfaction of hypertension patients with the type of care they receive. He is also interested in knowing that who, how and in what ways the patient receives the care while he stays in the hospital. The interviewer ask several questions form the interviewees (the patients). The patients answer the questions and he records it and later analyze it.

Now there are several questions the aim of the interviewer is to find out patterns, themes and concepts that can help him analyze and interpret interview data. He must reduce the data to only those answers and themes that are relevant to the research question otherwise analysis will become hard. The interviewer asks the following questions:

  1. Who helps you in checking the regular blood pressure and other vitals while you are staying here in the hospital?
  2. Apart from nurses and doctors is there someone else who comes and see you if yes than what kind o f help he/she provide you?
  3. How long does it take for the nurses and other staff to reach you while you call them?
  4. Does someone talk to you about how to manage your condition while you are at home?
  5. Who is the person responsible for checking whether the patients are getting satisfactory service?
  6. Are you satisfied with the service you are receiving?
  7. Do you think that you can mange your condition while staying at home?

These were some of the questions the interviewer asked form the patients in the hospital. The answers are recorded and now the researcher would read through each interviewee’s responses and try to find out interesting points that can help him analyze the responses. These interesting points will be the one that are related to the research question. The interesting points are recorded and the researcher reads all the subsequent interviewee’s responses and find out emergent themes and concepts in them.

The themes are developed after reading all the interviews and these themes are analyzed. The analysis means that the researcher finds out how many respondents answered positively in response to a them and how many responded negatively in regard to that theme. What is a general consensus of the respondents regarding hat them. While you are presenting the facts in the research make sure you write in a specific, clear and objective manner what you found and the meanings that you constructed from each theme and interviewee’s responses. For example, rather than saying that many respondents favored the overall service they received in the hospital, you should say that 85 % of the respondents agreed that when they call the staff the nurses reach them with in 2 minutes. You should be specific and clear so that the reader can make only one meaning out of what you have written that one meaning should be the same that you want to inform your readers.

Remember that none of the important information from the interviewee’s responses should be left un-analyzed. You can use several ways like peer debriefing, prolonged engagement, and member check to make sure there is no information left out from analysis.

To interpret your data from the interview you can use computer software that can help you draw conclusions. Computer software can help you make cumbersome calculations easier and fast. The use of manual statistical analysis is time consuming and the chances of errors are higher in the manual calculations.

Finally one more important point to consider is that do not just write quotes from the interview in the discussions section try to add your own reflections on the quote. Use only those quotes from the interviews that are highly significant and must be presented in the research. Add literature to support your findings to make it more reasonable. The discussion section should not be a mere representation of strings and fragments from the interviews but it should be presented in a systematic and logical manner.

You might also want to read:

Thematic Analysis of Qualitative Data

Data Coding in Research Methodology


  • Anderson, C. (2010). “Presenting and Evaluating Qualitative Research”. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. Vol 74. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2987281/
  • “Data Analysis”. University of West of England. http://learntech.uwe.ac.uk/da/Default.aspx?pageid=1414. Retrieved on 2019/2/17.
  • Hoyos, M. D., and Sally A B. (2014). Institute of Employement Research, University of Warwick. Analyzing Interview Data. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/esrcdtc/researchandtraining/ct201314/quals/analysing_interview_data_2014_wk3_for_web.pdf.



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