Key informant interviews


Relevant key informants are individuals who have a detailed knowledge on, or first-hand experience in, topics related to drowning and water safety. Interviews can be held with these individuals to gain an in-depth understanding of the drowning issue within a specific context or to receive suggestions for effective and appropriate approaches to drowning prevention. A key informant can range from an academic expert who performs research on drowning burden, to a community member who has undergone a personal experience associated with drowning. Key informant interviews are best conducted face to face. If time and resources are restricted, they can be conducted via telephone or video-conference. They can be used as an information gathering exercise to inform the goals and objectives of a National Water Safety Plan.
The principles for conducting key informant interviews are very similar to those used when conducting any type of qualitative research. Ensure that questions asked during the interview are open-ended, prompting knowledge sharing and storytelling from the key informant. The interview should seem like a free-flowing conversation between the key informant and the interviewer. It is important that a good rapport is established prior to the interview, encouraging open and honest discussion. The interview should be conducted in a quiet, private location to avoid distractions and maintain confidentiality. Loosely structured, short interview guides should be used to keep the discussion focused, with additional questions or probes added by the interviewer for a deeper investigation into areas of interest.  Identifying and connecting with key informants can be difficult, particularly if you are not on-site. Consider consulting with stakeholders and reviewing drowning-related research studies to identify key informants. 


  • A diverse range of individuals may be considered as key informants.
  • Key informants can help with the identification of other key informants (snowball sampling).
  • A relatively small sample size (usually ranging between 5 to 20 participants) is required per topic being investigated.
  • Can be conducted remotely.


  • The information collected can be highly subjective so it is best to conduct more than one key informant interview and to select a diverse group of participants.
  • Transcribing and analysing interviews can be time-consuming and expensive.
  • The interviewer will require some formal training or experience to conduct the interview effectively. 
  • It is possible for the interviewer to influence the responses of the key informant through their reactions to responses or phrasing used, introducing bias.
  • It is difficult to generalise results to wider populations as they are usually context-specific.


Key informant interviews should be performed when context-specific, in-depth qualitative information is required on the drowning issue. This type of qualitative research is best conducted during the development stages of a National Water Safety Plan to inform plan goals and objectives, and can contribute to a needs assessment.


Study using in-depth interviews to investigate childhood drowning cases (Bangladesh): Blum, Lauren S., et al. "Childhood drowning in Matlab, Bangladesh: an in-depth exploration of community perceptions and practices." Social Science & Medicine 68.9 (2009): 1720-1727.

More information

Guide to conducting key informant interviews

Guide to conducting key informant interviews (PDF 105KB)

More information on snowball sampling