Felicitas Mittereder, Jen Durow, Brady T. West, Frauke Kreuter, Frederick Conrad
Interviewer-respondent Interactions in Conversational and Standardized Interviewing

Field Methods, 2018: 30, issue 1, pp. 3–21
ISSN: 1525-822X (print); 1552-3969 (online)

Standardized interviewing (SI) and conversational interviewing are two approaches to collect survey data that differ in how interviewers address respondent confusion. This article examines interviewer–respondent interactions that occur during these two techniques, focusing on requests for and provisions of clarification. The data derive from an experimental study in Germany, where the face-to-face interviews were audio-recorded. A sample of 111 interviews was coded in detail. We find that conversational interviewers do make use of the ability to clarify respondent confusion. Although the technique improved response accuracy in the main study compared to SI, conversational interviewers seem to provide clarifications even when there is no evidence of respondent confusion. This may lengthen administration time and potentially increase data collection costs. Conversational interviewers also employ neutral probes, which are generally associated with standardized interviews, at an unexpectedly high rate. We conclude with suggestions for practice and directions for future research.