Surveys and Interviews

  • Objective: To discover information about people's opinions, beliefs and practices, and about service need or coverage of project access, so that the information may be analyzed statistically.
  • Materials/Preparation: Questionnaire or Interview Guide. All interviewers or administrators of questionnaires must be trained and practice using the tool, and the tool should be pre-tested. Clear instructions have to be made for the following procedures and problems:
    • Locating sample households: Problems in locating a household; No one at home at time of the call; Assigned household inaccessible; The house is all closed up and neighbors say that no one lives there; The dwelling is non-residential; The dwelling is a building with several apartments.
    • Identifying and interviewing eligible respondents: No eligible respondents; Eligible respondent not available; Respondent refuses to be interviewed Interview not completed.

Tips: Administering Interviews

Conducting interviews and surveys require great skill and sensitivity to participants and the environment. From experience, a few key tips in conducting interviews include:

  • Be neutral throughout the interview
  • Never suggest answers to the respondent
  • Do not change the wording or sequence of questions (except for semi-structured or unstructured interviews)
  • Be patient with hesitant respondents
  • Do not form expectations
  • Do not hurry the interview
  • Do not make any promises

Whenever engaging in interviews and questionnaires, it is extremely important to also consider ethical questions to research. Measures must be taken to prevent unintentional harm by considering the appropriateness of questions , how equipped staff are to conduct interviews on various topics, and how discussions may affect informants.

This is particularly true in research on Gender Based Violence. For such cases, be sure to review the WHO Ethical Guidance on Research Related to Gender Based Violence.


Questionnaire - Steps

Questionnaire Design

  • Review previous instruments used for similar studies
  • Brainstorm a first draft instrument - Use simple language!
    • Introduce the survey
    • Start with questions that are easy to answer
    • Work from the particular to the general.
      • Interviews should not be longer than 30 to 45 minutes
      • Give a number or another symbol to each possible answer
      • Get comments from others
  • Review the first draft and prepare second draft
  • Pre-test the instrument (if applicable) for :
    • sequence of questions/flow
    • comprehension of questions
    • appropriateness of questions: not emotionally charged, not superficial, not assuming knowledge or agreement, focused on respondents' own knowledge, attitudes and practice
    • coding to fit responses
    • timing
    • skip-pattern
  • Review second draft based on the pre-test findings an prepare third draft
  • [If applicable] translate the instrument from the language it was designed to the language for interviewing and back by two independent translators

Conducting Surveys/Questionnaires

  • Locate and enlist cooperation of selected respondents, trying to build rapport and taking a positive approach. Stress confidentiality of responses when necessary.
  • Ask questions in sequence, record answers, and probe incomplete answers to ensure that responses meet the question objectives;
  • Check completed interviews to be sure that all questions were asked and the responses legibly recorded.


Questionnaire: Example

As part of a cluster of studies on the effect of VSLA interventions, the team in Mali developed separate men’s and women’s closed questionnaires to explore:

  • Village, group and socio-demographic characteristics
  • Involvement in VSLA groups, and changes in revenue (amount invested, assistance received, profits and timeframe)
  • Civil society and political participation
  • Food security
  • Self-image, confidence and future orientation
  • Bodily integrity and violence against women
  • Mobility
  • Household decision-making
  • Community gender norms
  • Gender attitudes

Interview - Steps

Interview Types

There are a range of approaches toward designing interviews that can be used in quantitative, mixed-methods and qualitative analysis. These include:
  • Structured interview: Fixed questions, wording and order. However, unlike questionnaires, htey may include open-ended questions.
  • Semi-structured interview: Has set questions, but order and wording are flexible. Some questions may be omitted in some cases, or others added.
  • Unstructured interview: While the key discussion themes have been identified, there is no set wording or order, and the interview maintains a conversation around themes informally.

Designing Interview

(Barton, 2007)

  • Design an interview guide and a results summary form/coding for responses.
  • Decide who is going to be interviewed (purposeful sampling procedures); and select appropriate interviewers (may mean matching respondents and interviewers by age or gender; will depend on topic and local cultural values)
  • Pre-test the questionnaire guides with several individuals who are representative of the types of persons to be interviewed in the actual study (make sure the questions are comprehensible, that the answers are relevant, etc.
  • Conduct a training for all persons who will be doing the interviews (i.e., the interviewers); be sure the training includes a number of practice interviews with other interviewers or community members and subsequent review to improve performance.
  • Teach the interviewers to make relatively brief notes during the interview, filling-out the summary form immediately after the interview; this will require practice to capture exact words and phrasing for quotations

Processing Interviews

  • Review the reliability and validity of the interview, a number of questions to consider include:
    • Respondent knowledge on the topic / sub-topics
      • Is the respondent’s knowledge of the matter direct and first-hand?
      • Is the respondent in a position to provide accurate information?
    • Respondent tendencies toward exaggeration:
      • Is the respondent eager to make strongly authoritative statements?
      • Does the respondent think before replying and perceptive about the issues?
      • Are the respondent’s answers based on practical considerations?
    • Ability of respondents to articulate feelings, judgments, and opinions, especially to outsiders.
    • Motivations to give inaccurate information
      • Was the respondent trying to paint only a positive picture?
      • Is the respondent talking only of problems and difficulties to seek sympathy?
    • Social context of the interview
      • Were there people nearby who might have affected the person’s answers?
      • Was he/she anxious that others might overhear him/her?
      • Was the location private enough to ensure confidentiality for the interview?
    • Giving answers we want to hear
      • Did the respondent show undue deference?
      • Did the respondent seek the interviewer’s opinion before replying?
      • Did the interviewer say anything which silenced the respondent or changed the thrust of his/her responses?
    • Recent events: Mental and physical status of the respondent, etc.
  • Arrange for daily (or nightly) editing of all forms for completeness, errors, etc.
  • Hold daily discussions about problems encountered during the interviews and to review the preliminary results with other members of the team.

Interview Examples



  • M Bamberger, J Rugh and L Mabry (2006). RealWorld Evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • T Barton (1998). Program Impact Evaluation Process: M&E Tool Box. CARE International – Uganda.
  • Caldwell, Sprechman and Rugh (1997). DME Workshop Facilitator's Manual.
  • C Robson (1993). Real World Research: a resource for social scientists and practitioner-researchers. Maiden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.