Obtaining the right respondent

We should firmly establish in the minds of researchers the qualifications for being a respondent in a study. If a telephone survey requires a specific person in a household, the questioning procedure should establish the position of the person answering the call and not allow the interviewer to assume that any voice on the phone belongs to the desired person. If a heavy user of instant puddings is required, the questions and questioning procedures must be objective and thorough. The interpretation of the term 'heavy' is not something that should be left to either interviewer or respondent. There should be strict guidelines about classifying respondents into heavy, medium or light users, for example, so that this objective definition can be used in deciding who qualifies for questioning.

In a shopping precinct study where interviewers stop shoppers to question them, investigators can be given instructions about the ratio of men and women to interview. However, there can be special problems in shopping precinct interviews. The Monday shopper is likely to be different from the Saturday shopper and the morning shopper is different from the afternoon or evening shopper. The interviewing should be scheduled to represent all the varying categories.

When carrying out consumer telephone surveys, it is essential to make use of a recording form to ensure that the prescribed steps are properly carried out. This ensures that the consumer telephone sample is carried out as planned. The same kind of attention is required with a sample of business respondents. In a telephone survey where executives are the target sample, it is often difficult to get past the secretary or the assistant to the executive. A personal visit to the office often presents the same problem. Making a telephone call or sending a letter ahead of time, to see if a specific time can be set for that telephone call or personal visit, can help to resolve the problem. The nature of the questioning can be outlined. This not only gives the secretary a chance to clear it with the boss, but gives the executive time to obtain materials and documents ready for the interview. However, advance notice may also cause problems. It is often difficult for the potential respondent to arrange time ahead. Moreover, the advance call may provide the person with the means of postponing or refusing the interview outright.

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