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Interviewing and Research Methods

Jeff Anderson Consulting, Inc. is fully experienced in almost all research methods of known data collection. Each research method has advantages and disadvantages. 

Personal Interviews

An interview is called personal when the Interviewer asks the questions face-to-face with the Interviewee. Personal interviews can take place in the home, at a shopping mall, on the street, outside a movie theater or polling place, and so on. 

Advantages 

  • The ability to let the Interviewee see, feel and/or taste a product. 
  • The ability to find the target population. For example, you can find people who have seen a film much more easily outside a theater in which it is playing than by calling phone numbers at random. 
  • Longer interviews are sometimes tolerated. Particularly with in-home interviews that have been arranged in advance, people may be willing to talk longer face-to-face than to someone on the phone. 

Disadvantages    

  • Personal interviews usually cost more per interview than other research methods. This is particularly true of in-home interviews, where travel time is a major factor. 
  • Each mall has its own characteristics. It draws its clientele from a specific geographic area surrounding it, and its shop profile also influences the type of client. These characteristics may differ from the target population and create a non-representative sample. 

Telephone Surveys

Surveying by telephone is one of the most popular interviewing methods in the USA. 

Advantages 

  • People can usually be contacted faster over the telephone than with other research methods. If the Interviewers are using CATI (computer-assisted telephone interviewing), the results can be available minutes after completing the last interview. 
  • A true representative sample can be obtained by dialing random digit telephone numbers within a sampling frame. 
  • Our interviews CATI software makes complex questionnaires practical by offering many logic options. It can automatically skip questions, perform calculations and modify questions based on the answers to earlier questions. It can check the logical consistency of answers and can present questions or answers choices in a random order (the last two are sometimes important for reasons described later). 
  • Our skilled interviewers can often elicit longer or more complete answers than people will give on their own to mail or email surveys (though some people will give longer answers to Web page surveys). Interviewers can also ask for clarification of unclear responses. 

Disadvantages 

  • Many telemarketers have given legitimate research a bad name by claiming to be doing research when they start a sales call. Consequently, many people are reluctant to answer phone interviews and use their answering machines to screen calls. Since over half of the homes in the USA have answering machines, this problem is getting worse. 
  • The growing number of working women often means that no one is home during the day. This limits calling time to a "window" of about 6-9 p.m. (when you can be sure to interrupt dinner or a favorite TV program). 
  • You cannot show or sample products by phone.

Mail Surveys

Advantages

  • Mail surveys are among the least expensive research methods.
  • This is the only kind of survey that can be done with names and addresses of the target population.
  • The questionnaire can include pictures.
  • Mail surveys allow the respondent to answer at their leisure, rather than at the often inconvenient moment they are contacted for a phone or personal interview.  For this reason, they are not considered as intrusive as other kinds of interviews.

 Disadvantages 

  • Long duration of time! Mail surveys take longer than most all other research methods. Often, it takes several weeks after mailing out of questionnaires before the required numbers of responses are returned. 
  • In populations of lower educational and literacy levels, response rates to mail surveys are often too small to be useful. 

Email Surveys

Advantages 

  • Speed. An email questionnaire can gather several thousand responses within a day or two. 
  • Pictures and sound files can be attached. 
  • The convenience of an email survey often stimulates higher response levels than ordinary “snail” mail surveys. 

Disadvantages 

  • A list of email addresses must be already owned or must be purchased. 
  • Some people will pass questionnaires along to friends to answer. 
  • Many people dislike unsolicited email even more than unsolicited regular mail.
  • Email surveys sometimes may only be sent to those who have “opted-in” to those who have allowed surveys to be sent to them. 
  • Email surveys may not be used to generalize findings to whole populations as people who have email are different from those who do not, even when matched on demographic characteristics, such as age and gender. 
  • Email surveys cannot automatically skip questions or randomize question or answer choice order or use other automatic techniques that can enhance surveys the way on-line web-based surveys can. 

Internet (Web-based) Surveys/Blogs

Web-based surveys are rapidly gaining popularity. They have major speed, cost, and flexibility advantages, but sometimes significant sampling limitations. These limitations make panel selection especially important to restrict the survey to groups you wish to study using this technique. 

Advantages 

  • Web-based surveys/blogs are extremely fast.  Several thousand responses may be obtained within a few hours. Many people who will respond to an email invitation to take a Web-based survey will do so the first day, and most will do so within a few days. 
  • Large samples do not cost much more than smaller ones (except for any cost to acquire the sample). 
  • Pictures, videos and audio files can be included. 
  • Web-based questionnaires can use complex question skipping logic, randomizations and other features not possible with paper questionnaires or most email surveys. These features can assure better data. 
  • Web-based questionnaires can use colors, fonts and other formatting options not possible in most email surveys. 
  • A significant number of people will give more honest answers to questions about sensitive topics, such as drug use or sex, when giving their answers to a computer, as opposed to a person or on paper. 

Disadvantages 

  • Current use of the Internet is growing but far from universal. Internet surveys may not reflect the population as a whole.
  • People can easily quit in the middle of a questionnaire. They are not as likely to complete a long questionnaire on the Web as they would be if talking with a good interviewer. 

Jeff Anderson Consulting, Inc. will work with you to determine the best survey methodology to deliver you the results you are seeking most cost effectively and with the quality and expertise you desire.  

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