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Chapter 9

SOC200 Chapter 9 Survey Research .docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Margaret Gassanov

Chapter 9: Survey Research Topics Appropriate to Survey Research  Surveys can be used for descriptive, explanatory, and exploratory purposes  Respondent: a person who provides data for analysis by responding to a survey questionnaire  This is best method for researcher interested in collecting original data for describing a population too large to observe directly  Excellent for measuring attitudes and orientations, such as Public opinion polls  General attitude toward public opinion research is further complicated by scientifically unsound “surveys” that nonetheless capture people’s attention because of the topics they cover and/or their “findings”  Political campaigns have produced another form of bogus survey, called “push pull” o Push pull -Telemarketing scheme in which telephone calls are used to canvass potential voters, feeding them false or misleading information about a candidate under the pretense of taking a poll to see how this info affects voter preferences. The intent is not to measure public opinion but to manipulate it to “push” voters away from one candidate and toward the opposing candidate  Labels “survey” and “poll” are sometimes misused Guidelines for Asking Questions  Questionnaire: a document containing questions and other types of items designed to solicit information appropriate to analysis. Questionnaires are used primarily in survey research, but also in experiments, field research, and other modes of observation Choose Appropriate Question Forms Questions and Statements  Both questions and statements may be used profitably; gives more flexibility in the design of items and can make questionnaire more interesting as well Open-ended and Closed-ended Questions  Open-ended questions: questions to which respondents are asked to provide their own answers. Qualitative in-depth interviewing relies heavily on open-ended questions, but they are sometimes used in other forms of data collection such as telephone surveys and self-administered questionnaires o must be coded before processed for computer analysis o coding means interpreting responses, opening the possibility of misunderstanding and researcher bias  Closed-ended questions: questions to which the respondent is asked to select an answer from among a list provided by the researcher. These are popular in survey research b/c they provide a greater uniformity of responses and are more easily processed than open-ended questions o Transferred directly into research format o Should be guided by 2 structural requirements  Response categories provided should be exhaustive: they should include all possible responses that might be expected (“other” please specify)  Answer categories must be mutually exclusive: respondent should not feel compelled to select more than one Makes Items Clear  Questionnaire items should be precise so that the respondent knows exactly what the researcher is asking Avoid Double-Barrelled Questions  Frequently, researchers ask respondents for a single answer to a question that actually has multiple parts; most often when the researcher has personally identified with a complex question o For ex. Agree or disagree to “Canada should spend less money on welfare programs and more money on education”  As a general rule, whenever the word and appears in a question or questionnaire statement, check whether you are asking the double-barelled question Respondents Must be Competent to Answer  In asking respondents to provide information, you should continually ask yourself whether they are able to do so reliably Respondents Must be Willing to Answer  Often, we would like to lean things from people that are unwilling to share with us  Gallup Organization used a secret ballot format, which stimulates actual election conditions, in that the “voter” enjoys complete anonymity; this technique substantially reduced the percentage saying they were undecided about how they would vote Questions Should Be Relevant  Questions in questionnaire should be relevant to most respondents  Ideally, we would like respondents to simply report that they don’t know, have no opinion, or are undecided in instances where that is the case. Unfortunately, they often make up answers Short Items Are Best  In general, assume that respondents will read items quickly and give quick answers, Provide clear, short items that will not be misinterpreted under these conditions Avoid Negative Items  The appearance of a negation in a questionnaire item paves the way for easy misinterpretation Avoid Biased Items and Terms  The meaning of someone’s response to a question depends in large part on its wording  Some questions seem to encourage particular responses more than do other questions  Bias: that quality of a measurement device that tends to result in a misrepresentation of what is being measured in a particular direction o questions that contain bias are also referred to as “loaded questions” or “leading questions”  the mere identification of an attitude or position with a prestigious person or agency can bias responses  be wary of what researchers call the social desirability of questions and answers o whenever you ask people for information, they answer through a filter of what will make them look good; esp. true if they are interviewed face-to-face  the biasing effect of particular wording is often difficult to anticipate Questionnaire Construction General Questionnaire Format  be spread out and uncluttered Formats for Respondents  most common type of questionnaire is the respondent expected to check one response from series; boxes spaces a part seem to be best format Contingency Questions  contingency question: a survey question intended for only some respondents, determined by their responses to some other question. For example, all respondents might be asked whether they belong to the Cosa Nostra, and only those who said yes would be asked how often they go to company meetings and picnics. The latter would be a contingency question.  Sometimes a set of contingency questions is long enough to extend over several pages. Matrix Questions  Asking several questions that have the same set of answer categories  Advantages: o Uses space efficiently o Respondents will probably it faster to complete a set of questions presented in this fashion o May increase the comparability of responses given to different questions for the respondent as well as for the researcher  Disadvantages: o Question format can foster a reponse-set among some respondent: they may develop a pattern of, say, agreeing with all statements Ordering Items in a Questionnaire  The order in which questionnaire items are presented can also affect responses  The appearance of one question can affect the answers given to later ones  Survey found that the less educated respondents were more influenced by the order of questionnaire items than were those with more education  Overcoming this effect by randomizing the order of items. But o A randomized set of items will probably strike respondents as chaotic and worthless  In questionnaires, begin with most interesting set of items; duller, demographic data (age, gender, and like) should generally be placed at end of a self-administered questionnaire  For interview surveys, gaining rapport first and then getting demographic data first. Then asking about attitudes and more sensitive matters Questionnaire Instructions  Rank-ordering responses is often difficult for respondents, however, because they may have to read and reread the list several times, so this technique should only be used in those situations where no other method will produce the desired result Pretesting the Questionnaire  it is not usually essential that the pretest subjects comprise a representative sample, although you should use people to whom the questionnaire is at least relevant Self-Administered Questionnaires  3 main methods of administering survey questionnaires to a sample of respondents o Self-administered questionnaires (respondents asked to complete it themselves) o Surveys administered by interviews in face-to-face encounters o Surveys conducted by telephone  Most common form of self-administered questionnaire is the mail survey  At the same time, it may be appropriate to administer the questionnaire to a group of respondents gathered at the same place at the same time; such as a survey for first year psychology might be conducted this way  Home delivery survey and mail can be used in combination o Questionnaires are mailed to families, and then research workers visit homes to pick up the questionnaires and check them for completeness  On the whole, when a research worker either delivers the questionnaire, picks it up, or both, the completion rate seems higher than for straightforward mail surveys Mail Distribution and Return  Anything you can do to make the job of completing and returning the questionnaire easier will improve the study  The use of postage stamps communicates more “humanness” and sincerity than bulk rate and business-reply permits. Others worry that respondents will peel off the stamps and use them for some purpose other than returning the questionnaires. Because both bulk rate and business-reply permits require establishing accounts at the post office, you will probably find stamps much easier in small surveys Monitoring Returns  Return rate graph  Each return questionnaire should be opened, scanned, and assigned an identification (ID) number. Advantages: o By knowing date of public disclosure and the dates when questionnaires were received, you will be in position to determine the effects of the disclosure o Serialized ID numbers can be valuable in estimating nonresponse biases in surveys Follow-up Mailings  Sending new copy of the survey questionnaire with the follow-up letter  Properly timed follow-up mailings provide an effective method for increasing return rates in mail surveys  2 or 3 weeks is a reasonable space between mailings Acceptable Response Rates  Response rate: the number of people participating in a survey divided by the number selected in the sample, in the form of a percentage. This is also called the completion rate or in self- administered surveys, the retur
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