The ethnography of “paper-based” household surveys
Keywords:ethnographic method, participant observation, household survey, fieldwork, fabrication, falsification, face-to-face interview
AbstractHousehold surveys are still the most popular tool for gathering sociological data, while they allow to get the most comprehensive and proper information. However, the quality of information obtained through personal interviews, is largely determined by the quality of the interviewer’s work. It is reflected in his or her conscious desire to fulfill all the instructions and avoid substandard information during a fieldwork, which appears due to questions’ distortion, violation of their priority, etc. Often a large number of field errors come down to the interviewers’ fraud caused, in turn, by lack of prior training and coaching. The authors of this article joined one of the leading polling companies as freelancers in attempt to see how the field phase of the research based on a household survey technology and the interviewers’ work are organized. The study found that the methodical organization of interviewers’ work (including group coaching and training) is practically nonexistent and is expressed only in a few rules emerging from case to case. Interviewers are not included in the process of the company functioning and are forced to act on a whim, orienting by themselves and considering work optimization tactics on their own initiative in a vast field of research. The authors see firsthand through their experience of conducting surveys that the lack of regular interaction with colleagues and the leadership encourages interviewers to create their own practices and standards of conduct based on falsification and fabrication.
THEORY AND METHODOLOGY