The MCAP recognizes the importance of obtaining the best data possible, and that the best data requires the best interviewers. In order to ensure high quality data, the MCAP has developed an extensive interviewer training program. This three-day workshop combines classroom instruction and hands-on experience in the CATI facility. The workshop includes the following topics:

Day 1: Introduction to the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics. During day one, students are introduced to the MCAP, including its mission, goals and objectives. In addition, students are provided with instruction on research ethics which includes the history and objectives of institutional review boards. Based on information provided during classroom instruction and assigned reading, students discuss several case studies that address ethical issues.

Day 2: Using CATI and Conducting Interviews. The second day of training teaches students how to use CATI software and conduct interviews. Through classroom instruction and assigned readings, students learn how to make calls, input data and deal with respondents’ questions, concerns and unsolicited comments. Trained social scientists provide students with real-life scenarios to which students must respond in ways that are consistent with best practices in telephone interviewing.

Day 3: Mock Interviews. The final day of training requires the students to conduct actual telephone interviews and demonstrate competency in the use of CATI. Using an actual questionnaire from an upcoming poll, students call several associates of the center. The “respondents” provide realistic responses to questions and, in the process, allow trained social scientists to evaluate each interviewer’s ability to handle unexpected situations.

Prior to the first day of data collection for any poll, students (now trained interviewers) attend a briefing session where the procedures associated with the study are described. The briefing session includes a question-by-question review of the survey. Each interviewer is expected to demonstrate familiarity with the questionnaire before he/she is permitted to conduct interviews.

Debriefings and retraining sessions are held as necessary to ensure that all interviewers are following consistent procedures. If questions arise and clarifications need to be made about specific survey questions, written responses are prepared and distributed to the interviewing staff to ensure uniform, standardized interviewing practices. In addition, interviewers are asked frequently to meet together as a group to discuss their interviewing experiences on the project. The performance of each member of the interviewing team is closely monitored and evaluated throughout data collection.