Expertise, quality, objectivity

We will not diverge too far from the truth if we assume that most reserachers taking part in social research consider the period of field data collection as a sort of unwelcome pause between two important acts: preparation and evaluation. As if their work stopped at that moment, as if the raging mountain river of current research hid somewhere in the rocks and underground caverns in order to reappear after a time quietly burbling somewhere down in the valley.


In view of the above, it is relatively easy to understand that the situation of data acquisition in social research has not been explored yet very well in practice or in theory. This means that sometimes, it can be reduced, using simplified terms, to a series of questions which the interviewer asks and responses which the respondent provides, i.e. more or less to the position of the impetus – response behaviouristic paradigm. The interaction of parties involved is understood literally as a managed conversation within which each party has a clearly defined role and tasks related thereto. In this concept, the respondent is a passive element whose task is only to hear out a question and respond to it in a true manner. To the contrary, activity is expected from the person of the interviewer. This “activity”, however, actually only involves presenting questions with a prescribed wording and in a prescribed order, careful recording of responses in a defined manner prepared in advance and directing the conversation using standardised means in cases when the respondent is not able to or capable of accepting his/her passive role. Any other forms of communication, side information channels or hidden communication are a priori excluded because they would interfere with the unity of conditions or the requirement for standardisation. Several basic rules of leading the conversation, stated usually in manuals and instructions for interviewers, are sufficient, for the most part, for us, researchers, to be satisfied with knowing that the river indeed is flowing in the underground, that it passes through the familiar scoured riverbed, that it does not flow into dark uncontrolled corners and that it will turn up again in the usual form where we expect it.