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Survey Methodology Survey Instruments (2). EPID 626 Lecture 8. Reference. Most elements for this lecture were taken from : Mangione, Thomas. Mail Surveys: Improving the Quality . Applied Social Research Methods Series, Vol 40. Sage Publications, 1995.

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  • Most elements for this lecture were taken from :Mangione, Thomas. Mail Surveys: Improving the Quality. Applied Social Research Methods Series, Vol 40. Sage Publications, 1995.
    • Chapter 2, The Basics of Question Design
open ended questions
Open-ended questions
  • Short, specific
    • What is your current age?
  • Long, narrative
    • Why did you choose to come to this clinic?
  • Problems:
    • Illegible handwriting
    • Inappropriate detail
  • Usually avoid-the rest of the lecture is devoted to closed-ended questions
yes no and checklist questions
Yes/No and checklist questions
  • Yes/No
  • Checklist
    • From a list of alternatives, check those that apply
    • Problematic because you can’t distinguish a “No” from a skip
    • Yes/No may be better because it forces thought
multiple choice questions
Multiple-choice questions
  • Response alternatives should be mutually exclusive and exhaustive
  • Think about whether you want respondents to just check one response or to be able to check multiple responses
    • Multiple responses may complicate analysis
    • Think about presenting alternatives as a checklist
multiple choice questions 2
Multiple-choice questions (2)
  • Include “Other” as an alternative?
    • What does it tell you?
      • About the respondent?
      • About your question?
    • Use open-ended “Specify”________
    • May be useful during pretesting or if you are planning on revising the survey instrument
semantic differential questions
Semantic differential questions
  • Two opposite adjectives at the ends

Best Worst

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

  • Sometimes ask the question for two scenarios, ex: current situation and ideal situation, and look at the differential
ranking questions
Ranking questions
  • Present alternatives and ask respondents to rank them
    • Ex: rank from the most important to the least important
  • Think about whether you want to allow tie rankings
    • How will that affect your analysis?
two common formats

__ Eating fruit

__ Exercising

__ Meditating

__ Being happy

__ Sleeping enough


Eating fruit 1 2 3 4 5

Exercising 1 2 3 4 5

Meditating 1 2 3 4 5

Being happy 1 2 3 4 5

Sleep enough 1 2 3 4 5

Two common formats

Number 2 is usually preferable. Why?

rating scales
Rating Scales
  • Present a respondent with a question or statement and a range of responses
  • Ex. How would you rate your relationship with your physician?

Excellent Very good Good Fair Poor

rating scales 2
Rating scales (2)
  • Likert scale:

Ex. Patients should have the right to sue Health Maintenance Organizations

Strongly Agree Unsure Disagree Strongly agree disagree

rating scales 3
Rating scales (3)
  • Psychological distance
    • Distance between alternatives should be equal
  • Number of response alternatives
    • Usually 3 to 7 are recommended
    • What might affect your choice?
    • Think about your research question
    • Think about the complexity of the issue
rating scales 4
Rating scales (4)
  • Order of response alternatives
    • Should be monotonically increasing or decreasing
    • Should all be ordered in a column or row
    • Within a survey, may want to mix up increasing and decreasing by section, but never within a section
rating scales 5
Rating scales (5)
  • Unipolar response alternatives
    • Range from “nothing” to “a great deal”

Excellent Very good Good Fair Poor

  • Bipolar response alternatives
    • Range from “large negative” through “zero” to “large positive”

Strongly Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly

disagree agree

rating scales 6
Rating scales (6)
  • Odd or even number of alternatives?
    • Odd numbers create a midpoint
      • This midpoint should be a neutral response
      • Many respondents really like midpoints and will use them a lot!!!
    • Even numbers force people to make a decision
    • Depends on your research question
rating scales 7
Rating scales (7)
    • For very complex, emotional issues, you may want to have 2 middle points
      • Ex. Slightly agree and Slightly disagree
  • Balanced scales
    • Should have equal numbers on either side of neutral
    • Unbalanced scales will lead to bias
rating scales 8
Rating scales (8)
  • “Don’t know” as an alternative
    • Usually necessary for knowledge questions
    • For attitude questions, “don’t know” usually means “unsure”. Adding more middle categories may be a better solution
    • Sometimes use a screen question then initiate a skip sequence
rating scales 9
Rating scales (9)
  • Example of a screening question:

1. Are you familiar with the proposed legislation regarding universal healthcare? (circle one)

Yes Go to question 2.

No Go to question 17.

rating scales 10
Rating scales (10)
  • Behaviorally anchored scales
    • Objective, quantitative
    • Compare to subjective scales
Ex: How often do you exercise in a week?
  • Subjective: Often Sometimes Never
  • Behaviorally anchored: 5 times 3-4 times 1-2 times Never
  • Which one to use?
    • Depends on your research question
general recommendations
General Recommendations
  • Write brief questions
  • Write clear questions
    • Define ambiguous terms
    • Avoid jargon
    • Avoid double negatives
    • Avoid unclear pronouns
    • For open-ended questions, avoid adverbial constructions such as how, why, when, where
general recommendations 2
General Recommendations (2)
  • Be careful with:
    • Intentions
    • Hypotheticals
    • Assumptions: commonplace is not universal
  • Write unidimensional questions
  • Write mutually exclusive and exhaustive response alternatives
general recommendations 3
General Recommendations (3)
  • Generally avoid loaded questions
    • Special case for questions that may involve social desirability
    • When might we want to ask loaded questions?
“Most people have times when they drink too much and feel tipsy. How often has this happened to you in the last month?”
  • “Most people feel that smoking marijuana is harmful. How do you feel?”
  • “Marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for people with some symptoms of AIDS. How do you feel about legalizing marijuana?”