The Quality of the Quantity: Information Technology and the Evaluation of Data

Robert C. Yamashita, Howard Besser, Troy Duster, Thomas Piazza, Michael Hout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the problems with survey data is the need to impute an interpretive frame for the data. Generally this frame is developed ad hoc (in the design of the instrument) and modified post hoc (in explaining findings, apparent contractions, and variances from ad hoc expectations). While statistical methods provide measures of data consistency and validity, they cannot interpret the understandings of respondents. This paper offers an outline for using information technologies to aid researchers in the interpretation of respondent data. One method of re-capturing the interpretive context of subjects is to analyze the natural “talk” that necessarily occurs when subjects respond to survey questions. The new information technologies provide mechanisms for doing this. For example. with surveys that use Computer Assisted Telephone Interview systems, with modifications to the underlying computer technologies and the background database, voice and text records of respondents can be captured and stored. These records can then be used in conjunction with the statistical record. While there are physical limits (i.e. disk space; time, etc.) to such exercises, the basic information derived from text and audio sources can provide important contextual material for the evaluation of numeric data. Simple technological processes can be used to help gain a proxy understanding of the interpretive context (especially in conjunction with statistical evaluation). The data can also be used to further refine the survey instrument and evaluate the performance of the interviewers. A two stage development trajectory is offered. The first consists of a relatively simple modifications to the existing technology using text records, and the second looks to more expensive and complicated development of the core technologies. Other possible applications of these technologies are then discussed, and the significance of the Impact of these efforts are reviewed. Textual, Conversational & Numerical Data, Information Technologies. Qualitative & Quantitative Analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-145
Number of pages23
JournalBulletin de Méthodologie Sociologique
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The Quality of the Quantity: Information Technology and the Evaluation of Data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this