Face to face Surveys1

Face-to-face Surveys


Table of Contents

What are Face-to-face Surveys?

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Face-to-face surveys refer to a method of data collection where interviewers are used to contact and collect information from respondents face-to-face. It is one of the oldest methods of data collection as well as one of the most effective.

There are many different factors one must consider when weighing the strengths and limitations of employing face-to-face surveys as a method of data collection. Within this article, we will explore these different factors and how they influence design, costs, data quality, and more. 

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Design and Implementation Factors

To get a deeper understanding of face-to-face surveys, we must understand the different design and implementation steps that are required while collecting data using this technique. This includes the different sampling, measurement, and implementation factors. 

Sampling Issues

  • Coverage: When compared to other methods, face-to-face surveys that use multistage area probability sampling methods tend to have better coverage within most populations. Additionally, face-to-face contact allows for the use of more complicated selection methods and also yields higher cooperation when compared to other methods. 
  • Response Rates: Face-to-face surveys produce very high response rates when compared to other methods, most of which are seeing declining response rates.

Measurement Issues

  • Characteristics of Interviewers: Interviewers not only have an influence on nonresponse rates, but they also significantly influence on survey reports. An interviewers’ race, gender, and expectations can all have an impact on responses.
  • Behaviour of Interviewers: An interviewer’s conduct can also impact data quality, especially when it strays from the standardised procedures. When compared to self-administered modes where the survey question is presented in the same way to all respondents, this is not possible for methods such as face-to-face surveys and telephone surveys. This leaves room for measurement error caused by interviewer-respondent interactions which can result in biased responses and a decreased reliability of answers. 
  • Presence of Interviewers and Threatening Questions: The mere presence of interviewers influences survey respondents and their answers. When responding to an interviewer, respondents often over-report desirable and under-report undesirable behaviours to portray themselves positively. This leads to what is known as the ‘social desirability bias’ and the key to avoiding it is to minimise the aspects of answering that may seem threatening to respondents while simultaneously increasing the more salient features that influence comfort within the respondent to reveal private or sensitive information. This can be done by increasing privacy and anonymity, for instance. 

Implementation Issues

  • Interviewers and Associated Costs: As this method requires interviewers to contact and collect information from respondents, it is more expensive than any other mode. These higher costs are a result of the costs associated with hiring, training, equipping, supervising, and monitoring interviewers. There are also additional costs such as interviewers’ travel.

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See Voxco survey software in action with a Free demo.

Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI)

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CAPI, or computer-assisted personal interviewing, is one of the many forms of computer-assisted interviewing that have been introduced in the last few decades. CAPI is a form of face-to-face interviewing where the interviewer uses an electronic device such as a mobile, tablet, or computer to refer to the questions and record the answers. The CAPI questionnaires are pre-programmed into the electronic device that the interviewers will bring to the interviews. Responses will be inputted directly into this device. This eliminates the need for data entry and editing. CAPI is similar to CATI (computer-assisted telephone interviewing), except that the interview takes place in person rather than over the phone. 

When compared to paper and pencil interviews (PAPI), CAPI has many more advantages and features to offer. CAPI allows for the use of skip patterns and can conduct complicated calculations automatically in a fast and accurate fashion. Additionally, when used in longitudinal studies, CAPI can reveal inconsistencies within data that would not have been identifiable through PAPI.

Explore all the survey question types
possible on Voxco

Explore all the survey question types possible on Voxco

FAQs on Face-to-Face Surveys

Face-to-face surveys are a method of data collection where interviewers are used to contact and collect information from respondents face-to-face. 

Some factors to consider while conducting face-to-face surveys are sampling issues such as coverage and response rate, measurement issues such as characteristics and behaviour of interviewers, and implementation issues such as the associated costs of conducting face-to-face interviews. 

The high costs and long timelines associated with face-to-face interviewing make it an impractical choice for data collection, especially when compared to other telephone and internet modes. 

CATI, or computer-assisted telephone interviewing, is a form of face-to-face interviewing where interviewers use an electronic device such as a mobile, tablet, or computer to refer to the questions and record the answers. This method of data collection offers many advantages over PAPI (paper and pencil interviews) as it allows for skip patterns and complicated automated calculations, among other features.  

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