Sherman draws attention to a divide amongst readers, alluded to in the title: ‘Soiled by use or enlivened by association’ – between those who believe a book should never be blemished by marginalia, pen and pencil markings on the text to those who are happy to write in the margins of the volumes they read and will actively seek out and purchase copies of books that have been annotated and marked by earlier readers. The chapter explores this breach between readers using examples of marked texts soiled by notes, marginalia and stains, and those who have a preference for unsullied volumes. Sherman ends his chapter by declaring his own preference for readers to continue the tradition of writing notes in the margins of books and to recognise the value of such markings to historians of the future.
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William H. Sherman
This chapter revisits Townsend’s Poverty in the UK 1967–8 study to look at how informants’ housing conditions were coded during the survey interviews. Kilburn makes use of the marginalia and notes that field interviewers made in spaces in the paper interview schedule. The chapter explores responses and comments in the margin to the question of whether or not respondents believed they had a serious housing problem. Often responses to this question were contested – inhabitants did not consider themselves to have a housing problem yet the marginalia reveal interviewers’ accounts of very poor quality housing and overcrowding, making living circumstances intolerable. Thus, it was only through the marginalia that the true extent of poor housing conditions, central to the study, were revealed.
Eldin Fahmy and Karen Bell
Fahmy and Bell discuss their use of paradata generated when collecting data for the UK Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey (2012 PSE-UK). The authors use the experience of collecting these data as a basis for identifying means of improving the quality of survey design. They argue that the use of paradata, in this case the analysis of actual interviewer and respondent interactions, can better improve survey design than the more traditional approach of survey pre-testing. The chapter focuses on the area of behaviour coding which is a technique used to identify issues affecting questionnaire administration that stem from the behaviours of the respondents and the fieldworker. Using an example from the 2012 PSE-UK, Fahmy and Bell show how paradata collected from interview transcripts can provide survey designers with valuable information enabling the identification of problems with questions and so helping to improve future survey design and enhance the quality of data collected in survey–based research.