Chapter 11: Quantitative Interview Techniques & Considerations

11.1 Conducting Quantitative Interviews

Much of what we learned in the previous chapter on survey research applies to quantitative interviews as well. In fact, quantitative interviews are sometimes referred to as survey interviews because they resemble survey-style question-and-answer formats. They might also be called standardized interviews. The difference between surveys and standardized interviews is that questions and answer options are read to respondents in a standardized interview, rather than having respondents complete a survey on their own. As with surveys, the questions posed in a standardized interview tend to be closed-ended. There are instances in which a quantitative interviewer might pose a few open-ended questions as well. In these cases, the coding process works somewhat differently than coding in-depth interview data. We will describe this process in the following section.

In quantitative interviews, an interview schedule is used to guide the researcher as he or she poses questions and answer options to respondents. An interview schedule is usually more rigid than an interview guide. It contains the list of questions and answer options that the researcher will read to respondents. Whereas qualitative researchers emphasize respondents’ roles in helping to determine how an interview progresses, in a quantitative interview, consistency in the way that questions and answer options are presented is very important. The aim is to pose every question-and-answer option in the very same way to every respondent. This is done to minimize interviewer effect, or possible changes in the way an interviewee responds based on how or when questions and answer options are presented by the interviewer.

Quantitative interviews may be recorded, but because questions tend to be closed-ended, taking notes during the interview is less disruptive than it can be during a qualitative interview. If a quantitative interview contains open-ended questions, recording the interview is advised. It may also be helpful to record quantitative interviews if a researcher wishes to assess possible interview effect. Noticeable differences in responses might be more attributable to interviewer effect than to any real respondent differences. Having a recording of the interview can help a researcher make such determinations.

Quantitative interviewers are usually more concerned with gathering data from a large, representative sample. Collecting data from many people via interviews can be quite laborious. In the past, telephone interviewing was quite common; however, growth in the use of mobile phones has raised concern regarding whether or not traditional landline telephone interviews and surveys are now representative of the general population (Busse & Fuchs, 2012). Indeed, there are other drawbacks to telephone interviews. Aside from the obvious problem that not everyone has a phone (mobile or landline), research shows that phone interview respondents were less cooperative, less engaged in the interview, and more likely to express dissatisfaction with the length of the interview than were face-to-face respondents (Holbrook, Green, & Krosnick, 2003, p. 79). Holbrook et al.’s research also demonstrated that telephone respondents were more suspicious of the interview process and more likely than face-to-face respondents to present themselves in a socially desirable manner.