The semi-structured interview is a vital tool in rapid rural appraisal, and one for which a number of guidelines have been drawn up. It is an important way of furthering our understanding of the lives of rural people, but it needs to be understood by its practitioners. It is argued that it can contain an inherent bias which often conflicts with the understanding rural people have of the nature of knowledge and information, and therefore the meaning of questions and answers. In a Sudanese example, though interviews with key informants indicated that relief seed had been fairly distributed, further interviews with other members of the community showed that seed had not been distributed equitably to all groups throughout the area. Other examples of interviews in Somalia and Ethiopia are presented and the article concludes that mis-hearing can be corrected by further probing, verification and interpretation.
Interesting for researchers concerned with methodology as well as practitioners of RRA at community levels
Action Aid, IDS
Action Aid Emergencies Unit