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Conducting Cognitive Interviews to Understand Question-Response Limitations

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Objectives: To illustrate how cognitive interviewing techniques can be used to identify question-response problems for poorer and less educated survey respondents and to describe how qualitative analyses of interviews can improve survey questionnaires. Methods: A cognitive interviewing project testing a general health questionnaire was administered in southern rural Mississippi. Results: Three themes of response difficulty were identified: 1) responding within a survey interaction, 2) making mathematical calculations, and 3) responding within another system of knowledge. Conclusion: Understanding how sociocultural factors impact the response process is vital for survey research.

Keywords: cognitive interviewing; education; poverty; question-response; survey respondent

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Office of Research and Methodology, National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, MD.

Publication date: November 1, 2003

More about this publication?
  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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