Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Knight’s take on Face-to-Face Research

            Chapter 3 in Small Scale Research covers different methods of face-to-face research. Knight specifically highlights fixed-response questions, observation, interviews, focus groups, memory work, experiments, etc. A point he seems to reiterate throughout is how much the researcher’s participation in face-to-face methods can affect the data, or responses he/she gets. Not only can a researcher influence his/her respondents through the way the questioning method is framed i.e. the types of questions, but also through the sort of mood that the researcher gives off, and the specific way he/she acts during this interaction. This was particularly fascinating for me because I never thought that the attitude of the researcher had anything to do with the results, but it made me think back to when I took an introductory psychology course in undergrad and we were all required to partake in six hours of these sort of tests outside of class for, I guess, students who were doing their masters or PhDs. Coming from the perspective of the respondent, that sort of extra time devoted to answering someone else’s questions can seem a bit taxing, and I remember that the students running the experiments were always very appreciative and encouraging about it all. Some of them even gave out trinkets like lion postcards for our participation. When I think about it, the idea of six hours of being a respondent was far drearier than the actual process. I see now how big an impact the researcher/experimenter’s overall mood can have on the results. If you are pleasant and can easily put the respondent at ease and somehow create an environment where he/she doesn’t feel like your questions are unnecessarily eating up his/her time, then your results will, to some degree, reflect that. Knight really highlights the importance of interpersonal skills in the control of face-to-face research, and how rewarding or detrimental it can be for your results. 

Knight, P.T. (2002). Small-Scale Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


  1. I agree - the mood of the researcher can have a huge impact. This seems especially important not only to making the respondents feel that it's worthwhile, but also to encourage them to reveal more accurate information. I would assume that people are much more likely to speak freely if they feel comfortable around the researcher.

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  3. I'm not even honest with my own mother, so I really wonder how many people are completely honest with a stranger who is interviewing them!