Self Report In Research and Administering Structured Self-Report Instruments (X)

Afza.Malik GDA

Collection and Evaluation of Interview Data

Self Report In Research and Administering Structured Self-Report Instruments Collecting Interview Data and its Evaluation

Self Report In Research and Administering Structured Self-Report Instruments Collecting Interview Data and its Evaluation 

    Administering interview schedules and questionnaires requires different skills and involves different considerations. In this section, we examine issues in the administration of structured instruments, and ways of handling difficulties.

Collecting Interview Data

    The quality of interview data depends heavily on interviewer proficiency. Interviewers for large survey organizations receive extensive general training in addition to specific training for individual studies. Although we cannot in this introductory book cover all the principles of good interviewing, we can identify some major issues. 

    A primary task of interviewers is to put respondents at ease so that they will feel comfortable in expressing opinions honestly. Respondents' personal reactions to interviewers can affect their willingness to participate. Interviewers, therefore, should always be punctual (if an appointment has been made), courteous, and friendly. Interviewers should strive to appear unbiased and to create a permissive atmosphere that encourages candor. 

    All opinions of respondents should be accepted as natural; Interviewers should not express surprise, disapproval, or even approval. When a structured interview schedule is being used, interviewers should follow question wording precisely. Similarly, interviewers should not offer spontaneous explanations of what questions mean. 

    Repetitions of the questions are usually adequate to dispel misunderstandings, particularly if the instrument has been properly pretested. Interviewers should not read questions mechanically. 

    A natural, conversational tone is essential in building rapport with respondents, and this tone is impossible to achieve if interviewers are not thoroughly familiar with the questions. When closed-ended questions have lengthy or complicated response alternatives, or when a series of questions has the same response alternatives, interviewers should hand subjects a show card that lists response options. 

    People cannot be expected to remember detailed unfamiliar material and may choose the last alternative if they cannot recall earlier ones. Closed-ended items are recorded by checking or circling the appropriate alternative, but responses to open-ended questions must be recorded in full. Interviewers should not paraphrase or summarize respondents' replies. 

    Obtaining complete, relevant responses to open-ended questions is not always an easy matter. Respondents may reply to seemingly straightforward questions with irrelevant remarks or partial answers. Some may say, “I don't know” to avoid giving their opinions on sensitive topics, or to stall while they think about the question. In such cases, the interviewers' job is to probe. 

    The purpose of a probe is to elicit more useful information than respondents volunteered during their initial reply. A probe can take many forms: Sometimes it involves a repetition of the original question, and sometimes it is a long pause intended to communicate to respondents that they should continue. 

    Frequently, it is necessary to encourage a more complete response by a nondirective supplementary question, such as, “How is that?” Interviewers must be careful to use only neutral probes that do not influence the content of a response.  The ability to probe well is perhaps the greatest test of an interviewer's skill. 

    To know when to probe and how to select the best probes, interviewers must fully comprehend the purpose of each question and the type of information being sought. Guidelines for telephone interviews are essentially the same as those for face-to-face interviews, but additional effort is usually required to build rapport over the telephone. 

    In both cases, interviewers should strive to make the interview a pleasant and satisfying experience in which respondents are made to understand that the information they are providing is important. Collecting Questionnaire Data Questionnaires can be distributed in various ways, including personal distribution, through the mail, and over the Internet. 

    The most convenient procedure is to distribute questionnaires to a group of people who complete the instrument together at the same time. This approach has the obvious advantages of maximizing the number of completed questionnaires and allowing researchers to clarify any possible misunderstandings. 

    Group administrations are often possible in educational settings and may be feasible in some clinical situations. Personal presentation of questionnaires to individual respondents is another alternative. Personal contact with respondents has a positive effect on response rates for SAQs. 

    Furthermore, researchers can help explain or clarify particular items or the study purpose. Personal involvement may be relatively time-consuming and expensive if questionnaires have to be delivered and picked up at respondents' homes. The distribution of questionnaires in clinical settings, on the other hand, is often inexpensive and efficient and likely to yield a high rate of completed questionnaires. 

    Questionnaires are often mailed to respondents, but this approach tends to yield low response rates. When only a subsample of respondents return their questionnaires, it may be unreasonable to assume that those who responded were typical of the overall sample. That is, researchers are faced with the possibility that people who did not complete a questionnaire would have answered questions differently from those who did return it. 

    If the response rate is high, the risk of nonresponse bias may be negligible. A response rate greater than 65% is probably sufficient for most purposes, but lower response rates are common. Researchers should attempt to discover how representative respondents are, relative to the selected sample, in terms of basic demographic characteristics, such as age, gender, and marital status. 

    This comparison may lead researchers to conclude that respondents and non respondents are sufficiently similar. When demographic differences are found, investigators can make inferences about the direction of the biases. 

    Response rates can be affected by the manner in which the questionnaires are designed and mailed. The physical appearance of the questionnaire can influence its appeal, so some thought should be given to the layout, quality and color of paper, method of reproduction, and typographic quality of the instrument. The standard procedure for distributing mailed questionnaires is to include a stamped, addressed return envelope. 

    Failure to enclose a return envelope can have a serious effect on response rates. The use of follow-up reminders is effective in achieving higher response rates for mailed (and Internet) questionnaires. This procedure involves additional mailings urging non respondents to complete and return their forms. Follow-up reminders are typically sent about 10 to 14 days after the initial mailing. Sometimes reminders simply involve a letter of encouragement to non respondents. 

    It is preferable, however, to enclose a second copy of the questionnaire with the reminder letter because many non respondents will have misplaced the original or thrown it away. Telephone follow-ups can be even more successful, but are costly and time-consuming. With anonymous questionnaires, researchers may be unable to distinguish between respondents and non respondents for the purpose of sending follow up letters. 

    In such a situation, the simplest procedure is to send out a follow-up letter to the entire sample, thanking those who have already answered and asking others to cooperate.

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