Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Site Office

06/01/2002

A centrally located site office, whether for the duration of the study or just during the startup and the final crunch phase of the data collection effort, has proven beneficial. On the Woodlawn Studies, the field management staff were based at an office at NORCs University of Chicago location. This office was set up with multiple telephone lines to allow for centralized locating and some telephone interviewing by the field staff. On the New York Minority Youth Study, the office was set up in client-provided space at Columbia University. On the D.C. Networks Study, a permanent office is set up in a storefront centrally located to the sample members. On the Seattle Study, the site office was set up at the hotel where training was held and the travelers stayed; for the baseline interviewing it was maintained and staffed for the entire data collection period, whereas for the other rounds of interviewing it was set up for training and maintained for the first couple of weeks of data collection. After that the interviewers were supervised remotely, although the supervisor visited at least a few times to meet with field interviewers. There were travelers (experienced interviewers) in for the entire data collection period, although they were not the same individuals during the entire time.

In many studies the site office served to make interviewers more responsible and provided supervisors with greater flexibility to transfer cases and assignments when necessary. Interviewers were required to submit their Time & Expense Reports in person together with their completed cases. This closely tied pay to production and receipt control. Site offices also permitted supervisors to review Records of Calls and do the strategy planning face to face with interviewers.

On the New York Minority Youth Study, the front-line field manager believed that having a site office for the field interviewers helped in many ways. The respondent population was very transient, presenting multiple locating, refusal aversion, and conversion problems. Having a site itself lent a helping hand to interviewers who were not strong in these areas. The site office also provided a physical opportunity to brainstorm and share successful approaches with peers. Where one interviewer may have been unsuccessful with a certain case, the field manager could have another interviewer share his or her experience with similar cases or transfer that case for another approach. The field manager believed another benefit of the site office was in the team pressure it created. Interviewers had the opportunity to shine in person when they had a great week, and those who were not as successful felt pressured to perform better the following week.

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