A question of control? the formulation of suspect and witness interview question strategies by advanced interviewers

Andy Griffiths, Becky Milne, Julie Cherryman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


All investigative interviews are dialogues set within a legal context specific to an individual country or jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the need to ask questions appropriately is common to every interview, if reliable information is to be obtained. Despite this fact, published research has frequently reported a lack of skill in both the types of questions used by interviewers and the manner in which they are asked. However, during a recent quantitative evaluation of an advanced interview training programme in the UK, it was observed that graduates of this programme, in contrast to previous research, appeared to employ highly structured questioning strategies, methodically covering relevant subject matter across the complete time-span of an interview. The current study is a follow-up study using an alternative qualitative methodology for a deeper exploration of the rationale behind the formation of these questioning strategies. Using 'think-aloud' techniques, two independent groups of police officers (n=9) with advanced training in interviewing of either suspects or witnesses were individually interviewed about how they had structured their questioning during two phases of a simulated interview conducted on a training course. The results confirm, first, the high level of conscious decision-making employed by the advanced interviewers in formulating their question strategies, but secondly, identify excessive levels of control evident in some interviews with compliant witnesses. Finally, the results confirm the complex nature of real-life investigative interviewing, even for highly trained interviewers. The results are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-267
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Police Science & Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


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