Research Methods STA630
TOOLS FOR DATA COLLECTION
Broadly there are tools of data collection as part of communication surveys. These are:
1. Interview schedule
3. Interview Guide
As discussed earlier interview schedule and questionnaires both are predesigned list of questions used
for communication with the respondents. In the case of interview schedule, the list of questions remains
in the hands of the interviewer who asks questions from the respondent, gets his/her response, and
records the responses. Questionnaire is also a list of questions, which is handed over to the respondent,
who reads the questions and records the answers himself. For purposes of convenience questionnaire
will refer to both interview schedule as well as questionnaire.
Interview guide is list of topics that are to be covered during the course of interview. Interview guide is
used for purposes of an in-depth interviewing. Questions on the topics are formulated on the spot. Most
of the questions are open ended. The interviewer may not use the same wording for each respondent;
the number of questions may be different; the sequence of questions may also be different.
Guidelines for Questionnaire Design
A survey is only as good as the questions it asks. Questionnaire design is one of the most critical stages
in the survey research process. While common sense and good grammar are important in question
writing, more is required in the art of questionnaire design. To assume that people will understand the
questions is common error. People may not simply know what is being asked. They may be unaware of
topic of interest, they may confuse thee subject with something else, or the question may not mean the
same thing to every respondent. Respondents may simply refuse to answer personal questions. Further,
properly wording the questionnaire is crucial, as some problems may be minimized or avoided
altogether if a skilled researcher composes the questions.
A good questionnaire forms an integrated whole. The researcher weaves questions together so they
flow smoothly. He or she includes introductory remarks and instructions for clarification and measures
each variable with one or more survey questions.
What should be asked?
The problem definition will indicate which type of information must be collected to answer the research
question; different types of questions may be better at obtaining certain type of information than others.
1. Questionnaire Relevancy
A questionnaire is relevant if no unnecessary information is collected and if the information that is
needed to solve the problem is obtained.
Asking the wrong or an irrelevant question is a pitfall to be avoided. If the task is to pinpoint
compensation problems, for example, questions asking for general information about morale may be
inappropriate. To ensure information relevancy, the researcher must be specific about data needs, and
there should be a rationale for each item of information.
2. Questionnaire Accuracy
Once the researcher has decided what should be asked, the criterion of accuracy becomes of primary
concern. Accuracy means that the information is reliable and valid. While experienced researchers
believe that one should use simple, understandable, unbiased, unambiguous, and nonirritating words.
Obtaining accurate answer from respondents is strongly influenced by the researcher's ability to design
a questionnaire that facilitates recall and that will motivate the respondent to cooperate. Therefore avoid
Research Methods STA630
jargon, slang, and abbreviations. The respondents may not understand some basic terminology.
Respondents can probably tell thee interviewer whether they are married, single, divorced, separated, or
widowed, but providing their "marital status" may present a problem. Therefore, asking somebody
about his/her marital status while the person may not understand the meaning of marital status is likely
to mess up the information. Words used in the questionnaire should be readily understandable to all
3. Avoid Ambiguity, Confusion, and Vagueness.
Ambiguity and vagueness plague most question writers. A researcher might make implicit assumptions
without thinking of respondents' perspectives. For example, the question, "what is your income?" could
mean weekly, monthly, or annual: family or personal; before taxes or after taxes; for this year or last
year; from salary or from all sources. The confusion causes inconsistencies in how different respondents
assign meaning to and answer the question.
Another source of ambiguity is the use indefinite words or response categories. Consider the words
such as often, occasionally, usually, regularly, frequently, many, good, fair, and poor. Each of these
words has many meanings. For one person frequent reading of Time magazine may be reading six or
seven issues a year; for another it may be two issues a year. The word fair has great variety of
meanings; the same is true for many indefinite words.
4. Avoid Double-Barreled Questions
Make each question about one and only one. A double barreled question consists of two or more
questions joined together. It makes the respondent's answer ambiguous. For example, if asked, "Does
this company have pension and health insurance benefits?" a respondent at the company with health
insurance benefits only might answer either yes or no. The response has an ambiguous meaning and the
researcher cannot be certain of the respondent's intentions. When multiple questions are asked in one
question, thee results may be exceedingly difficult to interpret.
5. Avoid Leading Questions
Make respondents feel that all responses are legitimate. Do not let them aware of an answer that the
researcher wants. A leading question is the one that leads the respondent to choose one response over
another by its wording. For example, the question, "you don't smoke, do you?" leads respondents to
state that they do not smoke. "Don't you think that women should be empowered?" In most the cases
the respondent is likely to agree with the statement.
6. Avoid Loaded Questions
Loaded questions suggest a socially desirable answer or are emotionally charged. "Should the city
government repair all the broken streets?" Most of the people are going to agree with this question
simply because this is highly socially desirable. A question which may be challenging the traditionally
set patterns of behavior may be considered as emotionally charged i.e. it is loaded with such material
which may hit the emotions of the people. Look at some behaviors associated with masculinity in
Pakistani society. Let us ask a husband "Have you ever been beaten up by your wife?" Straight away
this question may be considered to be a challenge to the masculinity of the person. Hence it may be
embarrassing for the person to admit such an experience. Therefore, even if the husband was beaten up
by his wife, he might give a socially desirable answer.
7. Avoid Burdensome Questions that may Tax the Respondent's Memory
A simple fact of human life is that people forget. Researchers writing questions about past behavior or
events should recognize that certain questions may make serious demand on the respondent's memory.
Research Methods STA630
"How did you feel about your brother when you were 6 years old?" It may very difficult to recall
something from the childhood.
8. Arrange Questions in a Proper Sequence
The order of question, or the question sequence, may serve several functions for the researcher. If the
opening questions are interesting, simple to comprehend, and easy to answer, respondent's cooperation
and involvement can be maintained throughout the questionnaire. If respondent's curiosity is not
aroused at the outset, they can become disinterested and terminate the interview.
Sequencing specific questions before asking about broader issues is a common cause of question order
bias. In some situations it may be advisable to ask general question before specific question to obtain
the freest opinion of the respondent. This procedure, known as funnel technique, allows the researcher
to understand the respondent's frame of reference before asking specific questions about thee level of
respondent's information and intensity of his or her opinions.
9. Use Filter Question, if Needed
Asking a question that doesn't apply to the respondent or that the respondent is not qualified to answer
may be irritating or may cause a biased response. Including filter question minimizes the chance of
asking questions that are inapplicable. Filter question is that question which screens out respondents not
qualified to answer a second question. For example the researcher wants to know about the bringing up
of one's children. "How much time do you spend playing games with your oldest child?" What if the
respondent is unmarried? Even if the respondent is married but does not have the child. In both these
situations the question is inapplicable to him/her. Before this question the person may put a filter
question whether or not the respondent is married.
10. Layout of the questionnaire
There are two format or layout issues: the overall physical layout of the questionnaire and the format of
questions and responses.
Good lay out and physical attractiveness is crucial in mail, Internet, and other self-administered
questionnaires. For different reason it is also important to have a good layout in questionnaires
designed for personal and telephone interviews.
Give each question a number and put identifying information on questionnaire. Never cramp questions
together or create a confusing appearance.
Make a cover sheet or face sheet for each, for administrative use. Put the time and date of the interview,
the interviewer, the respondent identification number, and interviewer's comments and observations on
it. Give interviewers and respondents instructions on the questionnaire. Print instructions in a different
style from question to distinguish them.
Lay out is important for mail questionnaires because there is no friendly interviewer to interact with thee
respondent. Instead the questionnaire's appearance persuades the respondents. In mail surveys, include
a polite, professional cover letter on letterhead stationery, identifying the researcher and offering a
telephone number for any questions. Always end with "Thank you for your participation."
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