Academic journal article Contributions to Nepalese Studies

Assessing the Quality of Survey Data on Adolescent Sexuality by Talking with the Field Staff

Academic journal article Contributions to Nepalese Studies

Assessing the Quality of Survey Data on Adolescent Sexuality by Talking with the Field Staff

Article excerpt

Survey interviewers and supervisors are a rich source of information. Long hours in the field allow them to intimately observe and interact with study respondents. The trained interviewer can view the living conditions and relationship dynamics in the home and, more important, observe the respondents' reactions to survey questions revealed through their body language, verbal expressions, and apparent conviction. During this "window of opportunity," rapport often develops between the interviewer and the respondent, allowing the interviewer to gain valuable information far beyond the answers given in the survey questionnaire.

Although feedback from the field staff is common in survey research, systematic documentation of the feedback is unusual. (1) Yet such insights from the field interviewers are often an invaluable source of information to an analyst who must interpret the survey data.

The Nepal Adolescent and young Adult (NAYA) Survey collected information about the reproductive health knowledge, practices, and behavior of a representative sample of Nepalese in the 14 to 22 age group. Its objective was to provide better guidance for the development of effective policies, strategies, and programs aimed at improving the reproductive health of this age group. The survey was carded out in five urban areas and eight rural districts of Nepal. Valley Research Group implemented the fieldwork with technical support from Family Health International.

Upon completion Of the fieldwork, we, the research staff, met with the survey interviewers and supervisors to discuss their field experiences. The main purpose of these discussion sessions was to collect qualitative information that would enhance the analysts' understanding of the quantitative data recorded in the survey questionnaires and clarify respondents' thinking behind their answers to the open-ended survey questions. Separate reports on the discussion sessions were prepared for the rural and urban, areas (Thapa, Dhital, and Neupane, 2000a, 2000b). This background report synthesizes the main points reviewed in the discussion sessions in both areas.


We convened a discussion session with the field staff from each of the 13 sample districts. The discussions were similar to the focus-group discussions held with young Nepalese before the formal survey was conducted. Each session involved nine to ten persons and lasted typically one to two hours. We followed a discussion guide designed to obtain information on the same topics from all the survey teams, though some groups discussed certain items in more detail than others. The discussions were tape-recorded and transcribed.

Profile of the Field Staff

The field staff were trained in Kathmandu for one week prior to conducting the survey. During their training they received instruction on the survey topics, the questionnaire, interview methods, and role playing. The training included discussion of potential problems that the interviewers might encounter in the field and field practice with the questionnaire. Interviewer, s were required to personally fill out two to four questionnaires upon returning to their district so that they would become comfortable with the survey questions.

A total of 111 persons (20 supervisors and 91 interviewers) were assigned to work in the field. Of them 64 were men and 47 were women. The ratio of interviewers to supervisors was 4.6 to 1 (Table 1). The supervisors were slightly older than the interviewers (30 years versus 26 years, on average). The majority of the staff were unmarried students having an average of 14 years' schooling. Two-thirds had spent their childhood in rural areas.

The fieldwork was conducted between 5, July and 26 August 2000 in the urban areas and in two phases in the rural sample areas: from 5 August to 2 October in the Hill region and from 29 August to 29 October 2000 in the Terai (southern ecological) region. …

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