Table Of Contents
2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse
Field Interviewer Manual
Review of Chapter 2


2.1 Introduction

Many factors make an NHSDA field interviewer successful. The best interviewers are quick, efficient, and cost-effective without sacrificing response rates or high data quality. The key is to combine your knowledge of NHSDA protocols and procedures with your natural talents, creativity, and social skills. Some general guidelines are:

Other skills crucial to success are timeliness, organization, attention to detail, and persuasiveness. This Chapter outlines your responsibilities as an FI and shows in general how the above factors come together for a successful and enjoyable NHSDA experience.

2.2 Screening and Interviewing Process

During the screening and interviewing process, you are responsible for the following activities:

In order to be successful, it is important to plan adequate time for your field visits. This includes travel time to the area, spending at least four hours in the sample areas for screening and interviewing, and travel time home.

Exhibit 2.1 illustrates the basic steps in the screening and interviewing process. Review this exhibit carefully before you continue reading the manual.

Exhibit 2.1 Screening and Interviewing Process

1. Review segment materials to locate area and plot the best and most direct travel route to and from the area.

2. Prepare and mail lead letters.

3. Locate and contact selected DU.

4. Determine that the SDU is a true HU or true GQU, and check for missed dwelling units.

5. Is anyone home?

No Try DU later. Complete Record of Calls (ROC) in Newton.
If unit is vacant, not a DU, or only a temporary residence, verify with neighbor or other knowledgeable person. Complete verification information and complete ROC.

6. Is an eligible SR (resident of DU, 18+) available?

No Try to determine a good time to return. Complete ROC.

7. With the SR, complete the household roster and selection process.

8. Any respondents selected?

No Obtain verification information and thank SR. Complete ROC.

9. Can the selected R complete interview now?

No Establish an appointment. Complete ROC, including an entry about the interview appointment.

10. Introduce self, study, and obtain informed consent from respondent. (Obtain parent/guardian consent before approaching a selected youth.)

11. Conduct interview.

12. Complete end of the interview tasks, including verification form.

13. Thank respondent, complete ROC.

14. Transmit data to RTI.

2.3 Field Interviewer Responsibilities

Exhibit 2.2 provides a job description for an NHSDA Field Interviewer. A summary of your job responsibilities follows:

Exhibit 2.2 Job Description for an NHSDA Field Interviewer



The Field Interviewer (FI) conducts field work for survey research projects conducted by Research Triangle Institute (RTI). FIs prepare for and conduct data collection operations. Field interviewers ensure that field data collection activities are carried out in an efficient and cost effective manner, that the data collected are of the highest possible quality, and that all activities are conducted in a professional manner.




National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA)

The Field Interviewer (FI) for the NHSDA will be responsible for:




2.4 Professional Ethics and Respondents' Rights

Ethics can be broadly defined as a set of moral values or principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. Organizations must show their clients, employees, and the public, a prevailing sense of integrity, honesty, and responsibility in all aspects of work.

All survey research conducted by RTI is based on the highest ethical standards. Interviewers are expected to maintain the same professional ethics as all RTI researchers. These standards are taken very seriously! RTI's professional reputation depends upon all employees making the commitment to ethical standards a high priority.

As part of professional ethics, the rights of survey respondents must be protected by all RTI personnel. These rights include:

All staff involved in the collection, processing, and analysis of the survey data must be continually aware of the important responsibility to safeguard the rights of the survey participants. Since interviewers are in direct contact with these respondents, you must demonstrate high ethical standards in all project contacts.

2.5 Importance of Confidentiality

Much of the data collected during the NHSDA interview are sensitive. You must ask all questions and record all responses in a completely objective and nonjudgmental manner. Be aware of the sensitivity issue and of the need to treat as confidential any and all information you learn about respondents, whether directly from a response you receive or simply through casual observations before, during, or after your visit.

Because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, the project staff have taken special precautions to protect the confidentiality of the respondents. For one thing, the NHSDA is one of the few surveys where the name of the respondent completing the interview is never recorded. While the respondents' addresses are known, this information is kept separate from the respondents' answers through the use of two different computers. The Newton contains the addresses of selected DUs, but the interview data are collected and stored in the Gateway until transmission to RTI. The link between the demographic data collected in the Newton and the more sensitive data collected in the Gateway can only be made by project staff. Respondents should be reassured that any potentially identifying data, such as their address, are never made available to anyone outside the project staff. Additionally, their individual responses are only analyzed in combination with other responses collected nationwide. Finally, the confidentiality of all responses to the questions is protected under federal law (Section 501 of the Public Health Service Act). All answers are only used for research and analysis and cannot be used for any other purpose.

2.6 Adherence to Procedures

At training, you will be asked to sign a Data Collection Agreement (shown in Exhibit 2.3). By signing, you are entering into a contractual agreement that you will keep confidential all data you collect. It also certifies that you will carry out all project procedures precisely as they are presented in this manual and at training. It is very important that you understand and agree to this policy and understand that failure to comply could result in the termination of your employment with Headway Corporate Staffing Services as an FI on the NHSDA. If you have any questions regarding this policy, discuss them with your supervisor prior to making arrangements to attend training.

Exhibit 2.3 Data Collection Agreement




Project Name:               National Household               

                                       Survey on Drug Abuse          

Project No.:                  7190                                         

I, __________________________________________, an employee of Headway Corporate Staffing Services, agree to provide field data collection services for the benefit of Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in connection with the RTI Project shown above. Further, I

    a) am aware that the research being conducted by RTI is being performed under contractual arrangement with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;

    b) hereby accept all duties and responsibilities of performing specified data collection tasks and will do so personally in accordance with the training and guidelines provided to me. At no time will I engage the services of another person for the purpose of performing any data collection tasks for me without the prior written approval of RTI;

    c) agree to treat as confidential all information secured during interviews or obtained in any project-related way during the period I am providing services to RTI;

    d) agree to treat as confidential and proprietary to RTI any and all survey instruments, materials, and documentation provided or accessed during the course of my service on this project;

    e) am aware that the survey instruments completed form the basis from which all the analysis will be drawn, and therefore, agree that all work for which I submit invoices will be of high quality and performed in compliance with all project specifications;

    f) fully agree to conduct myself at all times in a manner that will obtain the respect and confidence of all individuals from whom data will be collected and I will not betray this confidence by divulging information obtained to anyone other than authorized representatives of RTI; and

    g) understand that my obligations under this agreement will survive the termination of any assignment with RTI and/or my employment by Headway Corporate Staffing Services.


                  Employee's Signature



Disposition: Original to RTI, Yellow to Headway Corporate Staffing, Pink retained by employee. 10/98

2.7 Performance Expectations

The data collection effort is vitally important to the success of any research study. Data collection procedures are standardized to maximize the quality of the data. We are depending on you to follow the procedures described in this manual. It is equally important to conduct data collection activities efficiently to ensure the study is completed within budget and schedule constraints.

The time and mileage spent while traveling to and from sample dwelling units is one of the major costs in any field survey. Keep travel to a minimum by carefully planning your route, comfortable with explaining the purpose of the study and how the information gathered will be used. The established criteria used to rate an FI's performance are presented in Exhibit 2.4.

Exhibit 2.4 FI Performance Criteria

Knowledge of Data Collection Techniques—Masters the information and skills concerning work duties that an individual should know for satisfactory job performance; ability to perform professional work in a versatile and creative manner.

Adherence to Deadlines—Consistently meets deadlines set for production and for submission of administrative information.

Response Rates—Maintains satisfactory response rates as defined by project expectations with consideration given to unusual site-specific circumstances beyond the control of the field interviewer.

Communication—Keeps supervisor adequately informed of progress and problems. Communicates effectively orally and in writing.

Productivity—Completes expected quantities of work. Plans and organizes workload effectively.

Quality of Work—Completed work is accurate, with a minimum number of data quality errors.

Dependability—Ability to do required jobs well with a minimum of supervision. Consistently works the expected number of hours and keeps appointments for conference calls and interviews.

Conversion Skills—Demonstrates satisfactory skills in converting hesitant and uncooperative respondents.

Judgment—Soundness of decisions in terms of weighing facts, past practice and theory where applicable, especially in the absence of detailed instructions or in emergency situations.

Cost Efficiency—Consideration of productivity relative to costs incurred for wages and expenses. Evaluate in light of project expectations and considering unusual site-specific circumstances beyond the field interviewer's control.

Use your supervisor as a resource to discuss unusual situations, review standardized procedures, or to answer questions about any aspect of the study. This will ensure that the study is being conducted in the same way by all interviewers.

RTI has in place a program of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) for the field staff. In CQI, the aim is to continually support you and improve your work while keeping errors to a minimum. The objectives of this program are four-fold:

To achieve these project objectives, NHSDA created the FI Performance Incentive Program. Each group of FIs who report to the same FS have an opportunity to earn rewards based on performance, willingness to work to meet objectives and willingness to cooperate with others in the group. This program has helped RTI increase communication with and support of the field staff and appropriately reward top performers.

2.8 Materials, Supplies, and Equipment

Appendix A contains an inclusive list of materials, supplies, and equipment you will use to conduct the NHSDA. Adequate quantities of materials and supplies are sent to you prior to your data collection activities. You must use the correct and official NHSDA materials for each interview. Be sure to monitor your level of supplies for upcoming work. If you require additional supplies, contact your supervisor. Descriptions of the purpose and use of each item can be found throughout the manual.

REVIEW OF Chapter 2
Your Job as a Field Interviewer

To assist your learning process, read the following summary of key points in this chapter. Following the summary are several questions to ask yourself. These questions will help you identify those areas you understand, and pinpoint the areas where you would benefit from re-reading a particular section.



1. What is the first step of the screening and interview process?

2. List five of your job responsibilities.

3. How many hours must you commit to this project each week?

4. What time periods during the week are your most productive working hours?

5. What are the four basic rights of survey respondents?

6. Answer these true/false questions:

T F During the screening, you will ask the name of the respondent.
T F If a respondent has already started the interview, they are not allowed to refuse an individual question.
T F I am not allowed to interview a youth before I have obtained consent from a parent or guardian.

Top of PageTable of Contents

This page was last updated on December 29, 2008.