Focus on Methodology: Eliciting rich data: A practical approach to writing semi-structured interview schedules




qualitative methods, interviewing, semi-structured interview schedules


One of the aims of qualitative research is to seek deeper understandings of the human experience. Semi-structured interviews are one of the most common methods used to achieve this purpose. However, novices may find it difficult to write interview schedules that elicit the type of thick, rich description that forms the foundation of qualitative inquiry. This paper provides a practical approach to writing semi-structured interview schedules that use events as the basic building blocks of the interview. This approach suggests three steps: (1) considering which core event or series of events illustrate phenomena of interest, (2) ordering questions to optimise an intuitive and conversational flow and (3) refining the schedule through a series of review and piloting.


Author Biography

Margaret Bearman, Deakin University

Margaret Bearman is an Associate Professor within the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE), Deakin University. She holds a first class honours degree in computer science and a PhD in medical education. Over the course of her career in health professional and higher education, Margaret written over 100 publications (published and in press), and regularly publishes in the highest ranked journals in her fields. She has received over $7.5 million in research and development funding over the course of her career, including co-leading the Improving assessment: understanding educational decision-making in practice grant from the Office for Learning and Teaching (Category 1) and academic lead on the project From trainee to GP: The role of feedback in promoting progression to independence from the Royal Australasian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). Recognition for her work, includes Program Innovation awards from the Australian Office of Learning and Teaching and Simulation Australasia.  Margaret’s interests include: assessment and feedback; simulation and digital technologies; sociomateriality; and educational workforce development.


Bearman, M. (2019). Key concepts in qualitative research design. In D. Nestel, J. Hui, K. Kunkler, M. W. Scerbo, & A. W. Calhoun (Eds.), Healthcare simulation research: A practical guide. Basel, Switzerland: Springer.

Bearman, M., Dawson, P., Bennett, S., Hall, M., Molloy, E., Boud, D., & Joughin, G. (2017). How university teachers design assessments: A cross-disciplinary study. Higher Education, 74(1), 49–64.

Bearman, M., Greenhill, J., & Nestel, D. (2019). The power of simulation: a large‐scale narrative analysis of learners’ experiences. Medical Education, 53(4), 369–379.

Bochatay, N., Bajwa, N. M., Blondon, K. S., Junod Perron, N., Cullati, S., & Nendaz, M. R. (2019). Exploring group boundaries and conflicts: A social identity theory perspective. Medical Education, 53(8):799–807. doi:10.1111/medu.13881

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory (2nd ed.). London, England: Sage.

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays. New York, NY: Basic.

King, E., Turpin, M., Green, W., & Schull, D. (2019). Learning to interact and interacting to learn: A substantive theory of clinical workplace learning for diverse cohorts. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 24(4), 691–706. doi:10.1007/s10459-019-09891-8

Kvale, S. (2007). Doing interviews. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Liamputtong, P. (2009). Qualitative research methods (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Method. (2019). In Lexico. Retrieved from

Methodology. (2019). In Lexico. Retrieved from

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Schultze, U., & Avital, M. (2011). Designing interviews to generate rich data for information systems research. Information and Organization, 21(1), 1–16.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

van Manen, M. (2016). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.




How to Cite

Bearman, M. (2019). Focus on Methodology: Eliciting rich data: A practical approach to writing semi-structured interview schedules. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 20(3), 1–11.



Focus on Methodology