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Interviewing II: Questionnaires

This is the first of two chapters about structured interviews. In a structured interview, each informant or respondent is exposed to the same stimuli. The stimuli are often questions, but they may also be carefully constructed vignettes, lists of words, stacks of photos, clips of music or video, a table full of physical artifacts, or a garden full of plants. The idea in structured interviewing is always the same: to control the input that triggers people’s responses so that their output can be reliably compared.

I’ll cover two broad categories of methods for structured interviewing: questionnaires and a range of methods used in cognitive anthropology, particularly cultural domain analysis.

We begin in this chapter with questionnaires and survey research. There are some lessons about how to write good questions and how to build and administer questionnaires that are unique to surveys conducted on the Internet—like exactly where to position the don’t-know option in scalar questions (you know, from agree to disagree, etc.) on the screen (Christian et al. 2009; and see Dillman, Smyth, and Christian 2009 on web survey design). The major lessons, though, on how to ask questions in surveys apply to all formats. This chapter focuses on those lessons.

 
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