Quiz 10: Surveys


Response error occurs when the recorded data differ from the true data; such errors can come from the participant in the editing, coding, or data entry stages. Interviewer error occurs when the interviewer in some fashion corrupts the data. This can occur as a result of inconsistent treatment of participants or questionnaires, ineffective participant motivation and cooperation created by the interviewer, social differences between participant and interviewer, and cheating. Nonresponse error occurs when the researcher had difficulty in securing interviews from participants who have been selected into the sample, and the non-participants differ from the participants in a systematic way.

Many environmental conditions, such as the degree of urbanization in the area, the day of the week, the time of day, the location of the interview, and the other demands being made on the participant at the time of contact are all important factors in determining the rate of response. For example, many urban residents feel threatened in their neighborhoods and are reluctant to answer the door when a stranger calls. Likewise, in a business shopping center at dinnertime it may be difficult to secure cooperation from persons rushing home. These problems can be only partially offset. Care in the selection and training of interviewers is one of the best ways to lessen these problems. Some interviewers consistently turn in better response rates. Techniques such as varying callback times, making calls at the times of highest probability of contact, setting up interviews by phone, interviewing other members of the family (when this is acceptable), and seeking assistance from neighbors to learn the best time to call are also ways to improve performance

There are many ways to motivate participants in such a case. Some methods are economic, such as cash, merchandise, or discount coupons for products sold in the mall. Other methods are psychological, such as developing good rapport with the participant, showing interest in the participant's thoughts and feelings, and convincing the participant that the research project and his participation is important and appreciated. Here it is often useful to indicate the utility of the research. In most cases a single method is not sufficient for adequately motivating participants; a combination of motivational approaches is necessary.