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Structured interviews and questionnaires

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Sociology 2206A/B
Georgios Fthenos

Survey research: Structured Interviewing and Questionnaires Lecture # 5 February 11, 2014 Key term • Interview schedule: a formal list of questions that the interviewer must follow in detail o Questions must be asked in order given Structured interviews: used because they produce standardization in the asking of questions and the recording of answers o Structured interviews let you be able to make solid comparisons and conclusions o Variation is expected in interviews; in terms of outcomes, everyone is different o Variation should be attributed to the characteristic being measured not the interview process (wrong answers, misunderstanding, data entry being done wrong (2, instead of 1), written down wrong). This is a “true” or “real variation” o Variation related to the interviewer or the interviewing process is variability due to error. Errors are unwanted as they skew the data and thereby the findings • Variation due to error can come from: o Intra- interviewer variability: an interviewer is not consistent in asking questions or recording answers (with the same respondent or a different one). Important if you have one researcher; how will you ensure this does not happen? o Inter- interviewer variability: lack of consistency in asking questions or recording answers between different interviewers o By using structured format, you can reduce these errors on the part of the interviewer/ interview process o Enhances the accuracy and ease of data processing because the use of ‘closed’ (responses are given and you must choose) or fixed choice’questions o The interviewees ultimately put themselves into categories when they select answer Structured interviews have to deal with interviewer effects: o The characteristics of the interviewers may influence response given. E.g.: a male asking a female about domestic abuse; would the female feel comfortable telling a male? Issues like race, class, sex are key reactive issues, homeless citizens Interview contexts of structured interviews • Usually one interviewer is designated for a research project o Even with focus groups where there are several interviewees o This may be due to cost o Reduces inter- interviewer variability o Avoids distraction o Reduces misunderstanding • In person face- face interviewing is the preferred method in academic research. o Data gathered through face-face interviews is argued to be a superior quality to that of telephone interviews. o Costs a lot of money and time o Can write field notes; see social cues; is the person fidgeting, or constantly moving? • Telephone interviews: cheaper and quicker to administer; especially where the respondents are geographically spread out. o Easier to supervise to reduce interviewer errors up front o Reduced issue with confidentiality, that exists with taped interviews; depends on the person you’re interviewing; you may still record the phone conversation o Reduced bias arising from ‘interviewer effect’ • Weaknesses: o Excluding people from those without telephones (poor), unlisted numbers, cell phones, and the hearing impaired, unless a computer random digit- dialing program is used (Law in some areas prohibits this). o Not going to get those in certain careers which could lead to bias o Hard to sustain for long periods of time (20-25 minutes) o Personal interviews tend to be more effective with sensitive issues, less likely to be embarrassed o Less peripheral information available to work with to assess for understanding and other social conditions. Not many social cues; cannot actually see persons face o Difficult to be sure targeted respondent is the person actually answering the questionnaire o Visual aids cannot be used to assist the interview ***THINKABOUT SAMPLE SIZE*** • Computer assisted interviewing o Programs are often used in conducting interviews, both in person and over the phone o The program relies on answers to ‘filter out’further questions that are unnecessary o Filtered question example: a series of questions that pertain to car ownership o Could be: ‘do you own a car’? o If the answer is ‘no, the software can automatically skip all further questions on car ownership • Online personal interview o Quality of face-to-face interviewing with efficiency and economy of the internet o More affordable o Able to get fuller responses and descriptions o Ease of contact for follow-up o May be no need to transcribe • Disadvantages: o Fairly high dropout rate. (May be overcome by establishing mutual trust) o Poor internet connection • Methodological issues o Trust developed through soliciting agreement before sending questions o Self disclosure by researcher; really good when you start an interview to let them know what you’re about, the research you’re doing, what you intend to do with the research • Questions sent in bulk o May lead to answering most interesting • Question followed by reply process o More reliable but more time consuming Conducting interviews: Basic Points • Schedule: interviewees should be familiar with the interview schedule • Introduction: respondents should be provided with a credible rationale for the research • Rapport: interviewers should try to develop rapport with interviewees but maintain a cautious balance o “Too friendly” may cause the interviewer to get side tracked, go on too long, or bring an interviewee to tailor their responses toward ‘pleasing’the interviewer o Don’t want to see
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