Situations and methods of re-asking in telephone surveys: an ethnomethodological analysis of a standardized interview




public opinion polls, telephone interviews, ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, institutional conversation, re-asking


Standardization rules that an interviewer must follow when conducting a telephone survey are not able to cover all possible situations in the interaction between the interviewer and the respondent, so the interviewer often has to use his own communication skills to get an answer from the respondent. Interviewers, therefore, are not automatons that ask questions and choose the respondent’s answers in the questionnaire, but participants of communication who influence the data. The current article reports on an empirical study of the methods of asking which are used by interviewers to obtain a response in the desired form. Utilizing the resources of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, the authors analyze 15 telephone interviews conducted by a large Russian survey company. The mechanics of interaction in a telephone interview are defined, after which attention is focused on the situations of asking and the methods by which it is carried out. The analysis shows what methods the interviewer uses in specific situations while translating the respondent's answers to the questionnaire language. The conclusions made by the authors can be useful both for specialists in the field of telephone surveys and for researchers in the field of conversation analysis who study the features of institutional and telephone conversation.

Author Biographies

Iuliia I. Avgustis, University of Oulu

  • University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
    • PhD student

Aleksandr A. Shirokov, Rutgers University

  • Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA
    • PhD student, School of Communication and Information