CPES logoCollaborative Psychiatric
Epidemiology Surveys

Survey Management

An attempt was made to standardize the interview materials across the studies as much as possible. Table 7 provides an overview of the study materials for the CPES project. Nine hundred and forty-six interviewers were recruited and trained based on specific requirements of the project, such as matching the interviewer and respondent race in NSAL or considering language preference of household for the NLAAS project.

Table 7. Interviewer materials for CPES studies
Study material Description
Field interviewer manual Contents:
  • Study overview (e.g., research goals, SRC organizational structure, funding sources for study)
    • Study-specific interviewing procedures
    • Guidelines on contacting households and encouraging cooperation
    • Eligibility screening procedures
    • Importance and necessity of informed consent and consent procedures
    • Interviewer instructions for administration of the questionnaire
  • Other miscellaneous topics (e.g., working with computer hardware and software, quality control measures, procedures for reporting payroll, expenses and productivity)
Interviewer training workbook Contents:
  • Training slides and exercises
  • Summary sheets or checklists for complex procedures
  • Copies of respondent letters, consent documents, and incentive payment receipt
Sample information
  • Detailed maps and listing of addresses within each area to assist in locating households
  • A coversheet for each address contained the following information:
    • Sample household address, unique identification number, interviewer to whom case was assigned
    • Study introduction
    • Screening and respondent selection instructions
    • Informed consent statement (for NLAAS)
    • Space for date, time, and outcome of every call attempt
    • Notes to assist in future calls to the household
Identification badge Picture identification badge for interviewers that confirmed their employment with SRC
Various letters
  • Introductory letter and study brochure sent prior to initial contact attempt
  • 'Not at home' letter for households that could not be reached after multiple visits
  • Letter for local law enforcement agencies that notified the agency that interviewing staff would be working in the area
  • Press release for the local news media
  • Letters of support from the director of NIMH
  • Project updates highlighting preliminary findings
Question by question instructions
  • Instructions or definitions for interviewers that were provided on-screen or accessible by pressing a function key and accessing online help file
  • Instructions were also included in the field interviewer manual
Respondent booklet
  • Reference for respondents to use during the interview. Booklet contained the following information:
    • Response categories for questions with complex response options
    • Response categories for long lists of options
    • Visual aids to assist respondent's understanding of response options

The 946 interviewers that were trained for the CPES project were distributed across each study as follows: 342 interviewers for NCS-R, 329 interviewers for NSAL, and 275 interviewers for the NLAAS. Study-specific training lasted five to seven days, depending on the study and which components were being covered.

The training sessions consisted of five main components: (1) instruction on household eligibility and respondent selection procedures; (2) questionnaire training, which included a section-by-section review of each module of the questionnaire, followed by question and answer sessions and two-hour practice sessions; (3) computer training and practice sessions; (4) review of interview procedures and study materials; and (5) mock interviews in which interviewing and administrative tasks were integrated to model realistic interviewing experiences. To better convey the content and to engage the training participants, trainers used a variety of formats, including large and small group lectures, round-robin practice sessions, mock interviews and one-on-one help sessions. Participants were given homework assignments, which the trainers reviewed to identify interviewers who were having problems with the computer hardware or software. For later trainings, experienced interviewers served as trainers for the two days of general interviewer training. The new interviewers benefited from the descriptions of the experiences of these interviewers, who were able to provide tested and concrete suggestions on how best to handle all aspects of the job.

All three studies provided training in sensitivity to cultural, racial, and socioeconomic diversity that would be encountered while conducting face-to-face interviews. Additional training was also provided on how to interview on sensitive or potentially embarrassing topics. Finally, because some of the questionnaire topics covered subjects that could reveal information about pending harm to the respondent or others, interviewers were trained on their legal obligations and on how to handle these rare but critical situations.

Determining respondent eligibility, which involved a complex procedure of sorting household members into various categories defined by age, gender, race, and ethnicity, was often a challenge for interviewers. Interviewers were provided with initial and ongoing training on the importance of and techniques for reducing non-response, and a wide variety of tools and procedures was developed at the beginning of each project to maximize respondent participation. Additional refusal conversion strategies and protocols were devised and implemented as the study progressed including ongoing interviewer training, 'tailoring' which involved the use of different approaches in introducing the survey to the respondent, respondent incentives (including $50 offered for participation), persuasion letters, special respondent recruitment offers, distinctive mailings, a toll-free respondent telephone line, use of travelling interviewers, responsive design approaches, increased respondent incentives (up to $150), an abbreviated interview schedule, interviewer incentives, subsampling, and institutional review board considerations.