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Seeking help to do a short study on the gendered impact of COVID-19 on women workers in the informal sector

Dear All,

We, a group of researchers at Institute of Social Studies Trust ( ISST). 

We are thinking to do a short and quick telephonic survey to assess the gendered impact of Covid-19 on women workers in the informal sector. We are concerned and careful that given the current turmoil we would not be able to probe the respondents too much and we would have to be judicious in claiming their time. Hence, we would have to be very careful in designing the survey tool, keeping it as short and focused as possible. So we were thinking if anyone could help us with any literature on the methodology of telephonic surveys or if we could learn from your experiences in case you have been doing similar studies. Looking forward to hear on this.

Thank you!  

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I'm very happy to be of help. I have developed many surveys, including some by phone, and could be a pair of eyes to review what you're asking and how. 

I agree you'd want to be judicious - we should always do that! Some interesting phone interviewing consequences have popped up for some researchers since confinement began, in which people are actually more likely to answer surveys than ever - perhaps because they are bored, lonely, etc. - and at times they really want to talk. You can see an article on this from the NY Times here:

There are also some resources here:

In terms of general good practices and challenges:

1. It's best if you can schedule the call before having it - it puts the respondent in control. You can use SMS or WhatsApp in many places. This could also give legitimacy - provide supervisor phone number, brief background on the survey, etc.

2. Make sure your interviewers - working from home - have a quiet, relaxing space to work and all the equipment they need, including internet service as necessary. They also need to practice their concise new telephone opening - preferably with a supervisor counseling them on how to improve.

3. Getting informed consent is more difficult because you have no verbal cues or trust built with the respondent. Informed consent statements should be concise, or done in a string so the respondent gets a chance to speak every few seconds or so.  

4. Test the questions before rolling out the whole survey. Call people, go through the whole thing, have a supervisor listening, record your impressions about ease of answering, how people "hear" the questions, language challenges, whatever is a hiccup in smoothly completing the interview. This practice period helps you know the actual length of time it takes to administer the survey as well, and to test what your response rate will likely be, and thereby change your sample if you need to.

5. If receiving calls costs them airtime, arrange for a transfer of airtime to them at the end of the survey. This is only applicable in some locations, but make sure you're not costing them anything to participate.

6. Depending on the topics, you may wish to have resource information on hand to supply to respondents. Such as clinic information if you're asking about health topics. This may be especially true if people are (as suggested in the NYTimes article) leaning on your survey staff for a bit of support while answering the questions.

7. "Sensitive" questions are always the most challenging, even in person. Consider whether sensitive questions are necessary (based on your study goals) and likely to succeed by phone. Introduce them later in the survey, not at the beginning before you have some rapport. There may be ways to depersonalize them or make them indirect (for example in Colombia we asked about the illicit drug economy not by asking what the household did, but what "households in the community" did.) If there is a way to "gamify" questions - sensitive or otherwise - that can make it much easier to get through telephone questioning.

I'm sure I'll think of other things, so will try to jump back on and re-post later if something useful occurs to me. Also happy to review drafts if needed.


GeoPoll is a small commercial business has conducted hundreds of CATI surveys across Africa and we would be pleased to find ways to support your planned efforts ranging from survey instrument design, sampling, enumerator training/monitoring, and data outputs.  My e-mail is

Response on email by Laurence Bedoret. Thanks Laurence.

 I came across a blog with interesting tips on how to launch a phone survey. Hope this helps: 



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