Interview with Professor James A. Davis

Master’s Series on Field Research
Interview with Professor James A. Davis Chairman of Sociology Department (1980-1983), Harvard University


Peter Blanck interviews Jim Davis about his research and work with surveying techniques. Davis describes the differences between laboratory research and field research, the potential for bias from unforeseen factors in field research, and the need for objective, standard methods of interviewing individuals. Davis goes on to discuss the National Opinion Research Center or NORC, the three main approaches to collecting survey data, surveying ethics, techniques needed to create a reliable survey, and sampling procedures. Finally, Davis is asked what he finds most stimulating and fulfilling about his research.

Transcript File

Interview with Professor James A. Davis -Transcript | Transcript (Text file)


James A. Davis founder of the National Data Program for the Social Sciences and its General Social Survey (GSS) and co-founder of the International Social Survey Program. As a sociologist, Davis has taught at Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Darmouth, and Essex in England. He has been a research associate at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), University of Chicago, since 1957 and was NORC’s director in 1971-1975. Davis’s areas of research include quantitative methods, social change, social structure, social psychology, and higher education. For his research in general and stewardship of the GSS in particular Davis was awarded the AAPOR Award of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (1992) and the Warren E. Miller Award for Meritorious Services to the Social Sciences from the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (1997). Davis has also made outstanding contributions to the teaching of sociology and received the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award (1989) from the American Sociological Association and the Levinson Award for Outstanding Instruction from Harvard University. He has been the developer of several important analytical software systems including CHIP and PATHFINDER.