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Practical Considerations for Urban Canvassing: Challenging Perceptions, Challenging Realities, Rookie Mistakes

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By: Published: 2014 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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Abstract

This case study is an analysis of survey methods and the learning curve for researchers, in particular, in longitudinal studies. The purpose of this case is to address issues that are not ordinarily brought up in the research methods sections of academic journal articles or books, including research design weaknesses. In a pilot study and subsequent survey of residents in South Holyoke, Massachusetts (United States), I discovered that textbook methodology sometimes takes a backseat to practical issues such as working with volunteer, non-academic canvassers; disorganized neighborhoods; and access to target population. In November 2012 and October 2013, approximately 40 volunteers canvassed a 3-by-4-block area in one of the city's most challenged communities. In conducting these surveys, the volunteers and I were faced with locked buildings (most residents canvassed live in subsidized housing), unanswered doors, and inconsistency in survey delivery. Even with the best preparation, a researcher should be prepared for obstacles and at times commit rookie mistakes in questionnaire design and survey execution. Practical considerations that are discussed in this case study include cultural and language barriers, survey question construction, and challenges of neighborhood canvassing.

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