Chapter 7: Asking People About Themselves: Survey Research
Why conduct Surveys? The survey method is also an important way for researchers to study
relationships among variables and ways that attitudes and behaviours change over time.
An assumption that underlies the use of questionnaires and interviews is that people are
willing and able to provide truthful and accurate answers. A response set is a tendency to
respond to all questions from a particular perspective rather than to provide answers that
are directly related to the questions. Most common response set is called social desirability
Constructing Questions to Ask
Defining the Research Objectives – there are three general types of survey questions
(attitudes and beliefs, facts and demographics, and behaviours)
Attitudes and Beliefs – focus on the ways that people evaluate and think about issues.
Facts and Demographics – factual questions ask people to indicate things they know about
themselves and their situations. Demographic information include age and gender.
Behaviours – focus on past behaviours or intended future behaviours.
Question Wording – problems include unfamiliar technical terms, vague or imprecise terms,
ungrammatical sentence structure, phrasing that overloads working memory, embedding
the question with misleading information.
Simplicity – questions that you ask in a survey should be relatively simple
Double Barreled Questions – avoid double barrelled questions that ask two things at once.
Loaded Questions – a loaded question is written to lead people to respond in one way.
Questions that include emotionally charged words such as rape, waste, immoral, ungodly, or
dangerous may influence the way that people respond and thus lead to biased conclusions.
Negative wording – avoid phrasing questions with negatives
“Yea-saying” and “nay-sing” – when you ask several questions about a topic, there is a
possibility that a respondent will employ a response set to agree or disagree with all the
Responses to Questions
Closed-Versus Open-Ended Questions – with closed-ended questions, a limited number of
response alternatives are given and with open-ended questions, respondents are free to