Best Practices: Rituals and Rhetorical Strategies in the "Initial Telephone Contact

Giampietro Gobo

Abstract


In the social sciences the need to integrate qualitative and quantitative approaches has long been recognized, but research practice rarely meets this need. The best way to achieve such an objective may be to select specific aspects of empirical research where the two approaches can achieve a mutual collaboration. One of these aspects is in dealing with the problem of refusals in survey research. In particular this paper will deal with the "initial telephone contact", a clearly-defined step in the survey research process. This step is crucial because, during the contact, refusals to participate may arise. Refusals are an increasing phenomenon which are particularly threatening to survey research, in that attempts to counter-act their effects can produce serious bias in the statistical inferences that are made and distort the data analysis. The advice reported in survey handbooks in order to manage the initial contact is often unrealistic and contradictory. Further, to reduce the refusal effect, standard texts propose that statistical weights are used. It is argued, however, that these are artificial and often completely arbitrary. For this reason it is important to adhere as much as possible to the random sample design by trying to persuade as many selected respondents to participate as possible. To bring this about, it is important that researchers address attention to the telephone communicative processes between interviewer and respondent, with a view to improving and identifying suitable rhetorical strategies. Based upon the results of his own research the author offers suggestions about how to manage the initial contact and which rhetorical tools to use. Further, he shows how discourse analysis and conversation analysis can improve techniques by accurately identifying strategies the interviewer uses for handling the contact, an important step towards identifying best practice for communicating with respondents.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0101177

Keywords


standardized interview; refusals; survey method; rhetorical strategies

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-2.1.978

Copyright (c) 2001 Giampietro Gobo

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