G. GOBO, The globalization of surveys: its evolution, weaknesses and opportunities
It is common to consider that the standardized interview and survey were born together, or
at the very least that their union is indissoluble. It is not true. Standardized interview met the
survey in the 1920s only, when the last was already mature, with almost a hundred years of
experience behind it. So the idea of standardizing the survey came along quite late.
It was only in the 1930s that the two were definitively linked, when the survey betrayed its
roots to become the methodology that we know today.
Survey, survey interview and standardized interview are not synonyms. The survey is a
methodology and may be identified with the entire process of research (from design to data
analysis); the survey interview is the method by which the survey gathers its data. Finally, the
standardized interview, which has become dominant in the last century, is a particular instrument
for collecting survey data. Unfortunately, most research practice and survey literature has
collapsed these three different terms and concepts into one and the same thing.
The central aim of this essay is to maintain the distinction and to affirm that the survey can
stand quite well on its own without the standardized interview, just as it did between the 1820s
and the 1920s. Indeed, abandoning the standardized interview would breathe new life into the
survey, putting it more in tune with the present.
Key words: interview, questionnaire, survey, globalization.
N. PAGNONCELLI, Talking about political poll’s problems
In recent years, forecasts based on political surveys have often been contradicted by electoral
results. This essay aims to review possible methodological and epistemological sources of
error related to pre-electoral forecasting. This question relates in the first instance to the use
that customers and the media make of polls. Some other possible bias is to be found in the role
of the media during electoral campaigns, in the relationship between the media and polls (and
politics), and in difficulties arising from specific topics covered by some political surveys.
Finally, some bias comes from epistemological problems innate to political studies themselves
and, above all, to methodological limits related to the choice of polling technique.
Key words: poll, election, response bias, social desirability, coverage error.
P. PARRA SAIANI, The (non) quantification in the study of society. Social indicators between social
control and democratic participation
The social indicators movement seems to be regaining its appeal. It was an heir to the supporters
of quantification in the Social Sciences, as numbers were believed to be objective and scientific
per se. Echoing the London Statistical Society’s policy that was declared two decades earlier, the
newly created Statistical Society of Paris resolved in 1860 that «statistics is nothing else than the
knowledge of the science of facts». It was, their statutes continued, an indispensable science for a
liberal state: «It ought to provide the basis upon which society is governed». But the aspiration to
know the territory was not always the simple thirst for knowledge: initial attempts were conducted
by governments to carry out a policy of control and taxation. Only in the mid-18th century did
many initiatives flourish. These concerned the collection of information in a more democratic spirit:
information was now considered to be a citizen’s right. The study of society in its various dimensions
has stimulated the search for and construction of statistical indicators and indices. The search
for a better way of studying the progress of societies has often led to inappropriate uses of indicators
and measures. GNP, for example, has been commonly considered to be an indicator of wellbeing.
The lack of a conceptual frame for studying well-being is not the only problem, nor even the
greatest. Of similar importance are the meagre statistical skills of journalists and policy-makers. All
together, these elements facilitate limiting the use of data in public debate.
In this paper, I will consider the shift from political arithmetic to modern social reports (par.
1); the success of quantification in the Social Sciences (par. 2); the use of quantification (par. 3); the
validity of official statistics (par. 4); the current non-use of quantification and the search for contextual
conditions that interfere with the transformation of information into knowledge (par. 5).
Key words: social indicators, policy, democracy, quantification, well-being, knowledge.
G. DI FRAIA, Ethics in the market research
In advanced societies, market research play a very important role within processes of production
of material and symbolic reality. This role makes the ethical issue relevant to every stage
of the production of marketing research and involving all stakeholders in the system. At present,
the reflection on the subject tends to remain confined within the system and to be undertaken
primarily at the level of professional ethics drafted in formal codes of conduct by the
industry associations. The development of new technologies is radically changing the detection
techniques, making observational processes increasingly invisible and «pervasive». The thesis
proposed in this paper is that this process, opening a whole series of new problems, make
urgent the activation of a broad debate on the subject able to increase widespread awareness
about the role of research market and its ethical implications.
Key words: market research; ethics; deontology of market research; innnovative marketing
M. PEDRONI, Scientific Research and Market Research. Synergies and Conflicts Between Academic
Field and Coolhunting
Within the market research it has been developed, in recent years, a set of research techniques
inspired by sociology and anthropology, known as coolhunting or trend research. The
aim of coolhunting is to intercept and document emerging trends in consumers’ lifestyles, providing
the enterprises with reports containing guidelines for planning future production and
communication. Starting from an empirical investigation based on 43 in-depth interviews to the professionals engaged in trends prediction, together with a participant observation of the Dutch
agency Science of the Time’s activities, the paper tries to identify: (1) the methodological features
of coolhunting and its links to the non-standard social research; (2) the relationship
between coolhunting and academic field: on the one hand, the benefits that coolhunting
obtains from the academic research (especially the symbolic legitimation); on the other, its
potential advantages for an employ in the explorative social research.
Key words: coolhunting; trend research; non-standard research; social research methodology;
L. MAURI, Applied Social Research and Policy Making: multiple methodological approaches
This contribution deals with the cognitive and methodological issues that involve applied
social research in its relation with policy design and political decision making, showing some
exemplifications of empirical options considered effective to produce good knowledge for facing
social changes and all the new needs and questions it produces. In this prospective, surpassing
the dichotomy within «academic research» and «applied research», the essay on one hand
wants to focus on the techniques and tools addressed to improve a knowledge-based decision
making in the field of welfare policies and on the other hand to discuss the role and the ethical
commitment of social researchers in the policy community, their responsibility in contributing
of the best «social organization of future».
Key words: social research, social survey, indicators, customer satisfaction, social design,
A. VITALINI, The use of social networks for the construction of probability samples: opportunities
and limitations for the study of populations without sampling frame
Populations without sampling frame, usually called hidden populations, are inherently
hard to sample by conventional sampling designs. Often the only practical methods of
obtanining the sample involve following social links from some initially identified respondents
to add more research partecipants to the sample. These kinds of link-tracing designs
make the sample liable to various forms of bias and make extremely difficult to generalize the
results to the population studied.
This article describes some attempts to build a statistical theory of link-tracing designs and
illustrates, deeply, the Respondent-Driven Sampling, a link-tracing sampling design that should
allow researchers to make, in hidden populations, asymptotically unbiased estimates under certain
Last, the article discusses some features and problems of the Respondent-Driven Sampling
which deserve further investigation and study.
Key words: snowball sampling, link-tracing sampling, sampling hidden populations, responentdriven
sampling, Markov chain.
T. MARCI, Sociology of Being and Ontology of Society. Notes around Andrea Bixio’s Lettera
The aim of this paper is to underline the sociological meaning of the book of Andrea Bixio,
Lettera sull’«inesistente» (Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli 2010); a book that revalues the experiences of the sacred and religion as fundamental horizons in order to think the real quality of
our age and the complex condiction of the contemporary world.
In fact, in order to consider the fundamental dialectic that crosses the relationship between
social immanence and religious transcendence, this book opens again the possibility to run
throught an able new sociological perspective to pointed out the necessity of a change of paradigm
to the reflection of the social scientists. A change that returns to the originality of the sociological
reflection, bringing back the thought to its essential historicity, that is, to the historical
concreteness of a opened and indeterminated social experience.
Key words: sacred, religion, sociology, ontology, transcendence.