Why is appropriate probing important?

A question on the labour status of an individual seems pretty easy to explain when looked at from the outside. But as you delve deeper into it, you discover the multiple layers. In a training session that we conducted, while giving examples on how to categorize an individual's 'current labour status', one field enumerator asked, "What is the kind of employment of a priest?"

Another enumerator answered, "Self - employed".

This lead to a long drawn discussion among the field enumerators on how it is neither of the above and the ambiguity had to be resolved with the following explanation, given the context of the assignment. A priest employed by a temple trust and paid a monthly salary will be categorized as a "salaried employee". On the other hand a priest who conducts ceremonies as and when required at houses of people or other places will be marked as "other" in the option list and be specifically listed as "daily wage earner".This simple question of a field enumerator led to a very important probe being incorporated in implementing the survey instrument as and when such a response is received.

Lesson learnt - Even the simplest of questions comes with its own set of connotations and may require in depth probing to arrive at the desired answer.


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