Telephone surveys for data collection – some reflections

Rosa Abraham and Mridhula Mohan

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Phone-based surveys have emerged as important survey tool with their use increasing particularly during the pandemic-induced lockdowns. However, the use of phone-based surveys comes with concerns around sampling and reporting – the former refers to issues in terms of reaching the intended respondents and adequate representation of different groups while the latter relates to the quality of data collected. Based on a phone-survey of a pre-existing cross-section of households in Karnataka and Rajasthan conducted during the lockdowns of 2020, this paper looks at how sampling and reporting issues play out especially with regard to speaking to women. Access to women, via phone surveys, is limited since most women do not have their own phone, and even if they are reached, they may not have the freedom to respond to all questions asked. We recommend a detailed protocol with multiple callbacks and rescheduling of calls that reduce sampling errors and allow for greater reach of women respondents and minimise discretionary decisions from the enumerators . We also recommend a set of questions to enumerators to help reflect on the quality of data collected. While phone surveys cannot replace in-person surveys, in the event they are used, a well designed protocol along with the use of meta and para data can go a long way in enhancing the quality and reliabilty of the data.
Keywords: Phone surveys, women respondents, survey methods
Suggested citation:
Abraham, Rosa, and Mridula Mohan. 2023. “Telephone Surveys for Data Collection – Some Reflections.” Centre for Sustainable Employment Working Paper #53. Azim Premji University, Bangalore.