PsyB01 Chapter 7.doc

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Connie Boudens

Chapter 7 Asking People About Themselves: Survey Research Why Conduct Surveys? - Surveys provide us with a methodology for asking people to tell us about themselves; they have become important as society demands data about issues rather than only intuition and anecdotes - In basic research, many important variables, including attitudes, current emotional states, and self-reports of behaviour, are most easily studied using questionnaires or interviews - The survey method is also an important way for researchers to study relationships among variables and ways that attitudes and behaviours change over time - 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 - The social desirability response set leads the individual to answer in the most socially acceptable way the way that most people are perceived to respond or the way that would reflect most favorably on the person - Social desirability is most acute when the question concerns a sensitive topic such as violent or aggressive behaviour, substance abuse, or sexual practices - People are most likely to lie when they dont trust the researcher Constructing Questions to Ask Defining the Research Objectives - When constructing questions for a survey, the first thing the researcher must do is explicitly determine the research objectives: what is it that the researcher wants to know Attitudes and Beliefs - Questions about 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 - In most studies, asking some demographic information is necessary to adequately describe your sample (e.g. age and gender) Behaviours - Some survey questions can focus on past behaviours or intended future behaviours Question Wording - There are a number of potential problems with question wording, which mostly stem from a difficult with understanding the question: o Unfamiliar technical terms o Vague or imprecise terms o Ungrammatical sentence structure o Phrasing that overloads working memory o Embedding the question with misleading information Simplicity - People should be able to easily understand and respond to the questions and jargon and technical terms should be avoided - A question might need to be a bit more complex when you need to define a term or describe an issue prior to asking the question Double-Barreled Questions - Double-barreled questions ask two things at once and are difficult to answer because it taps two potentially very different attitudes Loaded Questions - A loaded question is written to lead people to respond in one way (e.g. do you favour eliminating the wasteful excesses in the public school budget?) - Questions with emotionally charged words (e.g. waste) may influence the way that people respond and thus lead to biased conclusions Negative Wording - Avoiding phrasing questions with negatives since it can confuse people and end in inaccurate answers Yea-Saying and Nay-Saying - When you ask several questions about a topic, there is a possibility that a respondent will employ a response set to agree (yea-saying) or disagree (nay-saying) with all the questions - One way to detect this response set is to word the questions so that consistent agreement is unlikely - Consistently agreeing or disagreeing with a set of related questions phrased in both standard and reversed formats is an indicator that the individual is yea-saying or nay-saying Responses to questions Closed- Versus Open-Ended Questions - With close-ended questions, a limited number of response alternatives are given - With open-ended questions, respondents are free to answer in any way they like - Using closed-ended questions is a more structured approach; they are easier to code and the response alternatives are the same for everyone - Open-ended questions require time to categorize and code the responses and are therefore more costly - Open-ended questions are most useful when the researcher needs to know what people are thinking and how they naturally view their world - Closed-ended questions are more likely to be used when the dimensions of the variables are well defined Number of Response Alternatives
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