Quantitative conversations: the importance of developing rapport in standardised interviewing

Bell, K. , Fahmy, E. and Gordon, D. (2016) Quantitative conversations: the importance of developing rapport in standardised interviewing. Quality and Quantity, 50, pp. 193-212. (doi: 10.1007/s11135-014-0144-2) (PMID:26792949) (PMCID:PMC4705135)

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When developing household surveys, much emphasis is understandably placed on developing survey instruments that can elicit accurate and comparable responses. In order to ensure that carefully crafted questions are not undermined by ‘interviewer effects’, standardised interviewing tends to be utilised in preference to conversational techniques. However, by drawing on a behaviour coding analysis of survey paradata arising from the 2012 UK Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey we show that in practice standardised survey interviewing often involves extensive unscripted conversation between the interviewer and the respondent. Whilst these interactions can enhance response accuracy, cooperation and ethicality, unscripted conversations can also be problematic in terms of survey reliability and the ethical conduct of survey interviews, as well as raising more basic epistemological questions concerning the degree of standardisation typically assumed within survey research. We conclude that better training in conversational techniques is necessary, even when applying standardised interviewing methodologies. We also draw out some theoretical implications regarding the usefulness of the qualitative–quantitative dichotomy.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The survey data and transcripts were collected by the ESRC funded Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom project (ESRC Grant RES-060-25-0052).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bell, Dr Karen
Authors: Bell, K., Fahmy, E., and Gordon, D.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:Quality and Quantity
ISSN (Online):1573-7845
Published Online:25 December 2014
Copyright Holders:Copyright © The Author(s) 2014
First Published:First published in Quality and Quantity 50: 193-212
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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