Survey By Interviewer: Telephone

[Description] [Pros] [Cons] [Common Uses] [Resources]


A trained interviewer asks survey questions of respondents, to yield quantitative data. Allows respondent to ask for clarification and allows interviewer to control question sequence.

For telephone surveys, respondents are contacted, usually at home, by a trained interviewer. Respondents may be selected in advance from a list or contacted randomly (increases generalizability of results).


  • Generalizable results (if sufficiently large, probability sample with high response rate)
  • Appropriate for those of lower literacy
  • Interviewer available to clarify questions for respondent and probe answers
  • Decreased likelihood of incomplete questionnaires


  • Requires interviewer training
  • Low response rate diminishes value of results
  • Potential respondents who do not have a phone cannot participate
  • Respondents often hang up if they believe the survey is part of a solicitation call
  • Depending on the complexity of the survey, it may require computer-assisted interview systems to guide the interviewer

Common Uses

  • Obtain baseline data
  • Determine message's reach and recall
  • Acquire self-reported information on behaviors, behavioral intentions, attitudes
  • Test knowledge


See an example of a telephone survey about the core competencies of health communication professionals. Also included are the documents forwarded to participants prior to the telephone interview. Competencies_Phone_Survey.pdf