Constructing Survey Data
An Interactional Approach
- Giampietro Gobo - University of Milan, Italy
- Sergio Mauceri - La Sapienza University of Rome
Interviewing | Mixed Methods | Survey Research
The following key areas are explored in detail:
- An historical overview of survey research
- The process of preparing the survey and designing data collection
- The methods of detecting bias and improving data quality
- The strategies for combining quantitative and qualitative approaches
- The survey within global and local contexts
Giampietro Gobo, Ph.D., is Professor of Methodology of Social Research and Evaluation Methods at the Department of Social and Political Studies - University of Milan. He has published over fifty articles in the areas of qualitative and quantitative methods. His books include Doing Ethnography (Sage 2008) and Qualitative Research Practice (Sage 2004, co-edited with C. Seale, J.F. Gubrium and D. Silverman). He is currently engaged in projects in the area of workplace studies.
Sergio Mauceri, Ph.D., is Lecturer in Methodology of Social Sciences and teaches Quantitative and Qualitative Strategies of Social Research at the Department of Communication and Social Research - University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’. He has published several books and articles on data quality in survey research, mixed strategies, ethnic prejudice, multicultural cohabitation, delay in the transition to adulthood, worker well-being in call centres and homophobia.
In this (very) well-written book, the authors make a persuasive case for reuniting surveys and interviews; those methods have come to be the paradigm examples of the differences between quantitative and qualitative methods, but Gobo and Mauceri demonstrate that they could be natural allies in a mixed-method approach. Rather than continue with the current uneasy division of labor between survey and interview research, the authors propose reintegrating them in a synthesis that has deep historical roots and promises more profound and nuanced interpretations.
This insightful and innovative book will be of interest to survey researchers and qualitative researchers alike. I will be recommending that colleagues teaching survey methods, and our survey researchers, use Gobo and Mauceri’s new book, along with those of us teaching field methods. We still teach our Masters programme with quantitative and qualitative methods in separate ‘boxes’, and Gobo and Mauceri’s book shows the very necessary bridge between quantitative and qualitative methods. As such, it also contributes to the development of integrative mixed methods research.
This book is an outstanding contribution to the literature on survey methodology, and one that uniquely incorporates the most thoroughgoing understanding of how interaction works in relation to obtaining quality survey data. It is a remarkable achievement and belongs on the desk of anyone interested in survey methodology and in doing and using survey research more generally.
Constructing Survey Data is an ambitious, detailed, carefully pursued clarification of the history and current use of survey research by re-discovering an older, broader sense of “survey research,” a perspective the authors call an “interactional survey approach” consistent with John Dewey’s pragmatist perspective. The authors have created a comprehensive overview summarizing a huge literature and an equally comprehensive examination of the heart of contemporary social science research, a perspective that dominates contemporary studies favouring fixed-choice choices and digital outcomes.
It is an intriguing and exceptionally well argued thesis whereby Gobo and Mauceri open up the possibilities of reimagining the survey within a new qualitative framework, as well as a different cultural setting. Following on from this, I think we need to be much more proactive in using such intelligence to take a stance against the overwhelming plethora of “surveys” by which we are supposed to be measured. While this was not its goal, for me this book is a timely reminder of what happens when you pay peanuts for your survey design tool.
Giampietro Gobo and Sergio Mauceri have dedicated themselves to 'the new generation of social scientists', and they contribute to contemporary sociological methodology by expanding the borders not only of understanding but also implementing this in the 21st century.
The chapters are well-written, well-presented, and contain very entertaining examples – some of which made me laugh out loud – of the issues, problems, and different operational uses of survey research across countries, cultures, and languages. It has excellent practical advice for questionnaire and interview design, and a great range of further reading suggestions at the end of each chapter. The book therefore makes an invaluable teaching aid for discussing survey research, particularly in a classroom setting where some of the questions it raised for me could be debated and discussed further, and perhaps for pointing out that qualitative methods can sometimes offer alternative options to the problems with survey data that the authors raise.
The book has the potential to provoke important debates among researchers and in a wide range of survey methodology circles...it can also be a valuable teaching resource, particularly when covering questionnaire design, interviewing and mixed methods...(with) a considerable amount of academic material covered and referenced.
Gabor and Mauceri have produced a very valuable book, one that at the very least challenges us to reconsider how well current practices align with our data needs. As methodologists themselves, their understanding of actual practices and how they evolved leads to a wealth of insights applicable to questionnaire design and data collection...their constructive and insightful observations will be of great help to current practitioners.
Sample Materials & Chapters
Constructing Survey Data: The Answering Process