Strategy & Innovation

Qualitative market research: building a good interview guide

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To conduct qualitative market research, you need an interview guide. This document enables you to steer discussions, ensure that key topics are explored, maintain a logical progression, and facilitate comparison of the data collected. Find out more in this article about each stage in the design and application of this tool.

Definition: what is an interview guide?

An interview guide is a document detailing the questions and topics to be addressed during qualitative interviews. It is generally designed to guide discussion towards the objectives of qualitative market research. The guide is based on the key themes to be explored in order to obtain relevant information.

What's the difference between a questionnaire and an interview guide?

A questionnaire is structured with predefined questions, where responses are usually limited to predetermined choices or scales. It is therefore used to collect quantitative data, and is less flexible in terms of adapting to participants' responses.

A guide can include open-ended questions to encourage free expression, while ensuring overall consistency in the interviews conducted with the various participants. The nature of the data collected is qualitative and in-depth for later analysis.

The different techniques available

Direct & structured

It's a technique dedicated to collecting comparable data on a given subject, gathered within a common framework. All exchanges are of equal length, with questions posed according to a strict structure.

In this configuration, you control the discussion to ensure standardized exchanges and uniform responses. As a result, the results can be easily analyzed statistically. However, the rigidity of exchanges can limit spontaneity, leading to a lack of depth and preventing the emergence of unexpected or relevant information.

Semi-directive & semi-structured

Semi-directive and semi-structured interviewing is a data collection method that combines the participants' freedom of expression with a certain structure to guide the discussion. The interviewer adopts an open and encouraging attitude, encouraging the emergence of rich and varied information while ensuring that the objectives of the study are met.

The advantages of this approach lie in its ability to gather in-depth, nuanced data, while providing some structure to ensure the coherence and relevance of exchanges. However, it can also present challenges, particularly in terms of managing time and focusing the discussion to avoid dispersion.

At Dynergie, we carry out a large number of high-quality exchanges during the market surveys we carry out for our customers. We prefer semi-structured interviews for the advantages they offer, such as the richness of the data and the quality of the exchanges. What's more, this method enables us to identify new topics not initially planned, and include them in subsequent discussions.

Non-directive & free

The non-directive, open-ended interview is a data collection approach that encourages participants to express themselves freely on a given topic. In this configuration, the person conducting the interview adopts an open attitude and active listening, allowing participants to direct the discussion and raise topics that seem relevant to them.

This more spontaneous method encourages the emergence of rich and varied information, as well as unexpected new perspectives. However, this approach can make data analysis more complex due to the diversity of responses and their lack of structure.


Choose the technique that seems most appropriate to your context. Only in the case of a non-directive exchange, you won't need an interview guide. Simply define the theme, some key topics and get started.

Why use a guide?

So, as you will have understood, in this type of semi-directive and semi-structured interview, this guide will enable you :

  • Guide the discussion
  • Ensure coverage of key topics
  • Provide a structure to guide you
  • Make it easier to compare results

For the directive and structured framework, it will be essential to :

  • Guarantee standardized exchanges and responses
  • Ensuring consistency in data collection
  • Controlling the discussion
  • Ensure that study objectives are met
  • Enable data comparability

How do you write your guide?

Generally speaking, to create your interview guide, you need to take the following steps:

1. Defining objectives

Clarify what you want to achieve during the exchange and what information you want to obtain. Of course, put this in perspective with your market research objectives to maintain overall consistency.

2. Identify key topics

Determine the main themes you want to cover to meet your study objectives.

3. Formulating questions

Develop questions that encourage participants to express themselves and provide detailed information. Make sure your questions aren't biased, so that the answers you get aren't too.

Biased question: "You liked the main course, didn't you?"

Unbiased version: "Can you tell me what you thought of the main course?

Remember to include questions to deepen understanding or clarify participants' answers.

4. Define your plan

Organize the questions into a roadmap in order of priority or relevance to make sure you cover the most important topics first.

5. Preparing the introduction

The recipe for success with this type of approach is not only to prepare a precise introduction, but also to take the time to introduce the different participants and their roles. This creates a link, brings clarity and engages the respondent.

6. Test and revise

Before using it, test the interview guide with colleagues or team members to identify potential gaps or ambiguities, and make any necessary adjustments.

How do you create a semi-directive guide versus a directive guide?

For a directive guide :

  • As with a questionnaire, use closed-ended questions to obtain precise, uniform answers.
  • Ask questions with limited response options to minimize the variability of returns.
  • Define a precise order of questions and follow this plan rigorously to guide the discussion.

For a semi-structured guide :

  • In contrast to a questionnaire, include open-ended questions to allow participants to express themselves freely, and closed-ended questions to obtain specific information.
  • Establish an interview plan with a sequence of questions, but allow the interviewer to adjust the order according to the participants' responses or the specific needs of the study.
  • Be ready to adjust the guide according to participants' responses or developments in the research, to bounce back with relevance and clarify certain questions.

How do you analyze the results?

It's essential to take notes or record the interview as it takes place. Ideally, you'll have a transcript of every exchange. The interview guide will be a good ally, as it will help you structure your transcription by organizing the data collected so that it is easily accessible and understandable.

Data analysis is a highly complex task, and you need to be careful not to filter responses according to your personal biases and commitment to the project. It may therefore be necessary to call on a third party to conduct and analyze the interviews.

To analyze the results, we recommend you use an interview evaluation grid.

How do you build an evaluation grid?

An interview evaluation grid is a structured tool used to evaluate the results of your qualitative market research. It takes the form of a table or matrix listing the evaluation criteria. Each criterion is clearly defined and associated with measurable indicators. Scoring scales can be numerical, qualitative or mixed, depending on the needs of the evaluation.

To build your interview evaluation grid, start by going back to your guidebook and extracting your initial objectives, as well as the evaluation criteria in relation to the questions and themes you discussed.

Once this is done, we recommend using a tool like ChatGPT to ask the AI to analyze your transcript according to your interview evaluation guide. This will help you avoid filtering your answers.

Finally, draw up an overall synthesis and draw the lessons and conclusions from the results you've obtained.

Example of a qualitative interview guide

To take a closer look at the subject and make things easier for you, here's an example of the kind ofqualitative research we're used to carrying out, and the model guide we used.

Last year, one of our customers wanted to conduct qualitative market research on French microbrewers. After an initial phase of emergence and marketing of his innovation project, his objective was to interview a significant number of these brewers in order to :

  • understand their needs, expectations and potential market opportunities,
  • assess interest in the innovative project he had envisaged.

At Dynergie, we call this type of qualitative market research "market validation testing". The aim is to test your hypotheses by gathering information to validate or invalidate the commercial potential of an offer in a specific market.

Dynergie, a consulting firm that helps you conduct qualitative market research

At Dynergie, we specialize in qualitative studies for innovation projects. We call this type of qualitative study"market validation tests", and if you are an SME or ETI, financial assistance is available for this type of service. If you would like to benefit from the support of our experts, please contact us via our contact page.

Nicolas Hily

Marketing & Growth Manager

After spending two years as an innovation consultant specializing in the implementation of marketing strategies for innovative solutions, I'm now focusing on boosting Dynergie's growth as marketing and growth manager. Throughout my career, I've had the chance to experiment with a wide range of methods and principles derived from the field, my customers, my colleagues and various sources of information. Today, I'm delighted to have the opportunity to share this expertise with you. I hope to be able to share my vision of innovation and marketing through this content.

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