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Questionnaire Design Research Laboratory

Cognitive Interviewing

 

Cognitive interviewing is a popular method for evaluating survey questions in the Federal Government. Designed to understand how respondents, comprehend, retrieve, judge, and respond to questions. 

 

Characteristics of a Cognitive Interview study:

  • Purposive sample selection
  • Typically Small samples: 20-50 respondents
  • Provides rich detail in regards to respondents' thought processes in formulating an answer
  • Data collected are qualitative
  • Qualitative methodologies are used to analyze data

 

Follow-up questions or cognitive probes are used to examine thought processes.

  • Probes can target specific processes.
    • Comprehension: What do you think 'abdomen' refers to?
    • Recall: How did you remember that?
    • Judgment: How sure are you about that?
    • Response: How did you pick an answer to that?
  • Probes can also be more general and elicit narrative information about respondent's circumstances.
    • Why did you answer that way?
    • How did you come up with your answer?
    • Tell me more about that.

 

Findings of a Cognitive Interview study:

  • Are based on narrative information about how respondents answered questions. Validity is tied to the amount of rich detail that describes findings.
  • Are grounded in the experiences of the respondents.
  • Provide insight into question interpretation.
  • Provide insight into patterns of calculation.

 

Analysis of Qualitative Interview Data

  • Simultaneous pursuit of data collection & analysis
  • Constructing analytic codes & themes from data (grounded theory)
  • Make comparisons during each stage of analysis, for example…
    • Explore question response in 1 interview (comprehension; recall; judgment; response)
    • Compare that finding to the next interview (is it the same? If not, how is it different?)

 

Levels of Analysis in Cognitive Interviewing


Level 1 - Cognitive processing errors (individual response errors)

Level 2 - Patterns of interpretation and process (What the question captures)

Level 3 - Patterned differences in sub-groups (Potential For Bias)

Analysis_Levels

 

 

 

Questionnaire Design Research Laboratory

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  • National Center for Health Statistics
    3311 Toledo Rd, Suite 3216
    Hyattsville, MD 20782
  • qdrl@cdc.gov
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