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Structure of Training and Key Concepts

Table 3.2 proposes a list of topics for training in GIT. Table 3.2 does not include such important topics as recruiting respondents, study-specific training in a particular instrument, or administrative procedures that the interviewer must learn. The topics in Part 2 on the question-answer sequence and question form are the structural core of GIT. In this chapter, we highlight some of our recommendations for Part 2 of the training.

Question–Answer Sequence

Studies of interaction in the interview have long used the question-answer sequence as a basic unit of analysis (e.g., Cannell et al. 1989), and the "question-answer-acknowledgment" sequence has been labeled "paradigmatic" because it is central to the practices of standardization (Schaeffer and Maynard 1996). As indicated in Figure 3.1, the question- answer sequence identifies three specific locations for actions by the interviewer: reading


Suggested Topics for Interviewing Techniques Section of General Interviewing Techniques (GIT)

Part 1. Introduction

Lesson 1


Lesson 2

The Science of Survey Research

Part 2. The Question-Answer Sequence

Lesson 3

Question Reading

Lesson 4

Question Form

Lesson 5

How to Recognize a Codable Answer

Lesson 6


Part 3. Advanced Techniques

Lesson 7

Follow-up: Basic Techniques

Lesson 8

Follow-up: Advanced Techniques

Lesson 9

The Respondent Says "Don't Know" or Refuses

Lesson 10

The Respondent Asks a Question: Requests for Repetition and Clarification

Lesson 11

Training the Respondent

Part 4. Special Topics

Lesson 12

Choice Lists, Open Questions, and Field Coding

Lesson 13

Interviewer Instructions

Lesson 14

Groups of Questions: Filter-follow-up, Yes-No Checklists, Batteries, and Rosters


Basic question-answer sequence.

the question (turn 1); classifying an answer as codable (turn 2) and providing an optional acknowledgment (turn 3); or classifying an answer as an uncodable answer or other talk, such as a request for clarification, (turn 2) and following up (turn 3). This terminology and structural emphasis are fundamental to the training. The concepts may be new to GIT, but they are familiar to both practitioners and researchers.

Response Format (Question Form)

Based on studies of interaction, we incorporated the response format of the question as a second structural core of training (see Table A3A.2 in Online Appendix 3 for examples and descriptions). To reinforce key distinctions consistently, we bypass the traditional classification of questions as "open and closed," in favor of more specific labels. Because each question form projects a different type of answer, codable answers and follow-up actions also differ. The labels for the question forms were chosen to communicate key features to interviewers. "Yes-no" is also a native term for that question form. There are two common forms that ask respondents to select a category. We adopted the labels "selection with ordered categories" and "selection with choice list" to emphasize both the task posed to the respondent (to select) and a key feature of the set of categories offered (an ordered set of categories or list of choices). [The form that we label "selection with choice list" has also been labeled "categorical" or "nominal" (e.g., Holbrook et al. 2007; Krosnick and Presser 2010; Olson and Smyth 2015).] The label "discrete-value question" has long been used at SRO for questions that request (most often) a single number or (less frequently) a label (such as a month) without explicitly offering these as categories for the respondent to select. [Discrete-value questions have also been labeled "identification" (e.g., Dohrenwend 1965) and "open-ended numeric" (Olson and Smyth 2015).] We use the label "open" questions for questions that request an object (e.g., a most important problem) or a narrative (e.g., reasons for leaving a job). Some open questions require verbatim recording, and others are "field coded" (i.e., coded by the interviewer). The discussion of interviewing techniques in this chapter focuses on the three most common question forms: selection questions with ordered categories, discrete-value questions, and yes-no questions.

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