DEBRIEFING A structured "gab" session between interviewers recently in the field and their project supervisors. Debriefing lets field personnel provide feedback to office staff about how things are going and changes needed. Sessions usually include a line-by-line review of the questionnaire and a discussion of any problems encountered with respondents ( Groves and Kahn, 1979:43-44).
Debriefings occur at two main points during a survey. One is after a questionnaire has been pretested by interviewers. Supervisors then sit down with interviewers and review their field experiences. Questionnaire items are gone through for problems with wording, format, clarity, transitioning, and so on ( Sheatsley, 1983:226). The other time debriefings occur is after an interviewer has completed a set of interviews. Charles Backstrom and Gerald Hursh-Cesar have described post-interview debriefings:
Immediately after completing their assignments, the interviewers are debriefed by the supervisor. . . . Questionnaires are carefully checked to determine that they are properly completed, that the right people in the right houses were interviewed, that each questionnaire contains the correct identification numbers and case number, the respondent's name, address and phone number, plus interviewing time and date, and interviewer number.... Any work yet to be completed will be discovered now and the cleanup squad will be sent into action. ( Backstrom and Hursh-Cesar, 1981:296)
Debriefings facilitate communication between interviewers and supervisors. But they also have some collateral benefits. One of these is an opportunity to evaluate interviewers and detect sloppy performance. Interviewers who report no field problems and make no suggestions may not be doing their job. Another benefit of debriefing is the opportunity it gives to supervisors and other office-