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Indirect Oral Investigation in Statistics


By indirect oral investigation, we mean collecting information about a person not by asking the person himself but by asking his neighbors or people who know him well. Thus we can collect facts from the people who are directly or indirectly connected to the person and who have the required information about the person.

Therefore the main difference between a direct personal investigation and indirect oral investigation is that in a direct personal investigation we obtain information from the person under study himself. On the other hand, in indirect oral investigation, we obtain data not from the person himself but from those who are associated with him or know him.

Suitability of Indirect Oral Investigation (with Example):

The method of indirect oral investigation is suitable where the person himself but not be willing to reveal the information. For example, if we want to know whether a person is addicted to gambling or not it would do no good to ask the person himself. This is because the person might choose to hide his addiction if asked directly. Since the person has a motive to lie, the information so obtained would be unreliable.

We now list out some of the merits and demerits of the indirect oral investigation method.

Advantages of Indirect Oral Investigation:

  1. The interviewers can cross examine the informants personally to ensure that the information collected is accurate. For example, they may check that the information given by two different informants in consistent. If the information is not consistent we can conclude that one of the informants is lying.
  2. The informants have a lesser incentive to lie compared to the person being investigated. As explained earlier a person may be reluctant to reveal a gambling addiction on his own while a person living in his neighboiurhood might have no such worries.
  3. This method is very useful if a direct source of information is not available. For instance, the person himself might be dead or gone missing in which case we have no choice but to rely on third parties.

Disadvantages of Indirect Oral Investigation:

  1. If the interviewers are not properly trained, it is possible that they may not be able to get the correct information from the informants.
  2. If the informants are biased against the subject, they might purposely give negative or incorrect information to the investigator. Thus, there is a possibility of bias being introduced in the study.
  3. The interviewers are forced to question multiple informants since reliance cannot be places upon the word on any single informant.
  4. The informants can never provide information about the person with as much detail as the person himself.

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