Publication Abstract

Authors: Beatty P, Willis G

Title: Research synthesis: the practice of cognitive interviewing

Journal: Public Opin Q 71(2):287-311

Date: 2007

Abstract: Cognitive interviewing has emerged as one of the more prominent methods for identifying and correcting problems with survey questions. We define cognitive interviewing as the administration of draft survey questions while collecting additional verbal information about the survey responses, which is used to evaluate the quality of the response or to help determine whether the question is generating the information that its author intends. But beyond this general categorization, cognitive interviewing potentially includes a variety of activities that may be based on different assumptions about the type of data that are being collected and the role of the interviewer in that process. This synthesis reviews the range of current cognitive interviewing practices, focusing on three considerations: (1) what are the dominant paradigms of cognitive interviewing-what is produced under each, and what are their apparent advantages; (2) what key decisions about cognitive interview study design need to be made once the general approach is selected (e.g., who should be interviewed, how many interviews should be conducted, and how should probes be selected), and what bases exist for making these decisions; and (3) how cognitive interviewing data should be evaluated, and what standards of evidence exist for making questionnaire design decisions based on study findings. In considering these issues, we highlight where standards for best practices are not clearly defined, and suggest broad areas worthy of additional methodological research.