Book reviews

Book Review: Collins, D. (Ed.). (2015). Cognitive Interviewing Practice. London: Sage. Reviewer: Stanislava Stoyanova

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    This book consists of twelve chapters organized in three parts written by the staff of NatCen Social Research in UK. The book summarizes their experience from quantitative and qualitative research across a lot of social areas.  

    This book deals with cognitive interviewing as a method for refining questionnaires, not as a procedure of witness investigation. Cognitive interview in the sense discussed in the book is conducted before the main survey for checking whether or not the questions can be understood and answered by the participants who are aimed to be studied.

    Cognitive interviewing is based mainly on thinking aloud when reading the questions and probing, i.e. asking open questions, but also paraphrasing, confidence ratings, observation, response latency measurement, card sorts, and vignettes (short descriptions of some situations or scenarios) could be used. Some other methods that contribute to the same goal are also described in the book – depth interviews, focus groups, desk appraisal, expert review, usability testing, piloting and debriefing methods, behavior coding, paradata, and split ballot experiments. The advantages and disadvantages of every method are discussed.

    The process of cognitive interviewing is presented in the different chapters of the book – planning, sampling and recruitment, developing interview protocols, conducting the interview, data management, analysis, interpretation, and application of findings. The last chapters of the book specify some practical cases of cognitive interviewing as face-to-face,  telephone or web cognitive interviewing, cross-national, cross-cultural and multilingual cognitive interviewing, as well as combinations of cognitive interviewing with other techniques for improving questionnaires.

    This book is necessary for all scientists who develop or translate questionnaires and use the methods of survey and interview. The book presents thoroughly the problems related to item generation, formulation of questions and decision-making regarding the final form of the questionnaire before the main study. It gives detailed guidelines how to conduct the pilot study and to use in the best way its findings for the goals of the main study. These topics are often underestimated in the process of practical work in the area of psychological measurements. Psychologists, as well as sociologists and all scientists who develop and use questionnaires in their work could profit from the recommendations given in this book. 

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