Designing the face-to-face survey

This chapter by W. Lawrence Neuman gives a detailed overview to collection of questionnaire data through a face-to-face survey method.

The chapter covers the strengths and limitations of this method, and talks in depth about the process of designing and implementing the survey, as well as aspects of management and improvements.


"Direct human contact is the primary strength of the face-to-face interview. The researcher, or a trained interviewer, personally meets, sees, talks with, and listens to a respondent. Direct human interaction increases respondent cooperation and motivation. Face-to-face surveys have the highest response rates. Respondents find it more difficult to turn down a person standing at the doorway than to toss a mail questionnaire into the trash, hang up the phone, or click to a different computer screen. Krysan et al. (1994) found different types of people may respond or fail to respond to different modes of survey administration (mail versus face-to-face). Lower income, less educated, and minority populations are less likely to participate in non face-to-face modes.

Once an interviewer has gained entry and initial cooperation, mainstream norms of politeness and hospitality encourage continued interaction. The face-to-face format permits the longest survey interviews. A skilled interviewer can stimulate and involve a respondent, build a sense of trust, and create rapport factors that encourage respondents to provide honest answers and disclose information. Respondents who might otherwise be difficult to engage fully in a survey interview can become absorbed, cooperative participants with face-to-face interaction. Not surprisingly, respondents report higher satisfaction with the survey process when interviewed face-to-face rather than by telephone or Web surveys (Holbrook et al. 2003)." (Neuman 2012, p. 227)


  • 14.1 Survey Types and Strengths/Limitations of Face-to-Face Interview Survey 227
  • 14.2 Models of Face-to-Face Survey Process 229
  • 14.3 Survey Questions Specific to Face-to-Face Surveys 235
  • 14.4 The Face-to-Face Interview Process 238
  • 14.5 Issues in the Face-to Face Process 240
  • 14.6 Face-to Face Survey Improvement 242
  • 14.7 Planning and Design in Survey Management 245
  • 14.8 Conclusion 245
  • References 246


Neuman, W. (2012) 'Designing face-to-face surveys' in Handbook of Survey Methodology for the Social Sciences (ed. L. Gideon). Springer Science+Business Media: New York. pp. 227-248.

'Designing the face-to-face survey' is referenced in: