Interviewer Training in the Social & Behavioral Research Lab
The Social & Behavioral Research Lab (SBRL) at Winthrop University requires interviewers to go through multiple levels of training. For interviewers on telephone surveys, some of this training involves how to work the Computer Aided Telephone Interviewing (CATI) system. However, the most important training is how to be a good interviewer who is effective at getting scientifically accurate information. While interviewing is often though of as an "art," the truth is that there are methodological protocols which must be followed to ensure the scientific accuracy of the data collected.
The term "response effects" refers to the situation where something about the survey process alters the opinion that the respondent chooses to express. Through neutral and unbiased question wording and the careful placement of questions in an order where previous answers will not become deterministic of later answers, the SBRL strives to create scientifically valid survey instruments. However, the interaction with the interviewer may often trigger a "response effect." For this reason, callers must follow certain protocols (such as neutral probes or follow ups so the respondent does not shade their response in a way they feel will 'please the interviewer' or be the 'right answer').
The Introductory Training Manual for New Callers in the SBRL may be found here.
In-person training sessions stress and re-stress the importance of following the methodological protocols contained within for the importance of getting scientifically accurate information.
Sensitive Topics/ Population Training
While this is never the case for a Winthrop Poll, for certain contracts, the SBRL may be asking sensitive questions (such as whether a household experienced problems with alcohol abuse in the past year for a human needs assessment survey) or dealing with sensitive populations (such as program evaluations where the participants are elderly and low-income).
When this is the case, interviewers are required to undergo additional human subjects research training. The program which meets federal guidelines and is approved for use by Winthrop's Institutional Review Board (which reviews all research involving human subjects according to federal guidelines: Title 45CFR46) is the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative. More information on that program may be found here.