Choosing a Communication Method
A researcher can conduct a survey by personal interview, telephone, mail, computer or acombination of these.
A personal interview (i.e. face-to-face communication) is a two-way conversation initiated by aninterviewer to obtain information from a participant. The differences in the roles of interviewer and participant are pronounced. They are typically strangers, and the interviewer generallycontrols the topics and patterns of discussion. The consequences of the event are usuallyinsignificant for the participant, who is asked to provide information but has little hope of receiving any immediate or direct benefit from this cooperation.
Evaluation of the Personal Interview
There are real advantages as well as clear limitations to personal interviewing. The greatestvalues lie in the depth of information and detail that can be secured. It far exceeds theinformation secured from telephone and self-administered studies via intercepts, mail surveys or computer. The interviewer can also do more things to improve the quality of the informationreceived than with another method.The absence of assistance in interpreting questions is a clear weakness that can be improved bythe presence of an interviewer. Interviewers can note conditions of the interview, probe withadditional questions and gather supplemental information through observation.Interviewers also have more control than is the case when using other kinds of interrogation.They can pre-screen to ensure the correct participant is replying, and they can set up controlinterviewing conditions. They can use special scoring devices and visual materials, as is donewith computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI). Interviewers also can adjust the languageof the interview as they observe any problems and the effects the interview is having on the participant.With such advantages, why would anyone want to use any other survey method? Probably thegreatest reason is that personal interviewing is costly, in terms of both money and time. AADDITIONAL NOTESREV01/0111/LT/CH06