Questionnaire design:. Perhaps now you'll fill in my questionnaire?. How does the way you collect data affect the data collected? How does question wording affect people’s answers?. Practical exercise in questionnaire use: You will
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Perhaps now you'll fill in my questionnaire?
How does question wording affect people’s answers?
(a) design a questionnaire to answer questions on some aspect of people's behaviour (smoking, exercise, hobbies, etc.);
(b) administer it to a small sample (20-30 people);
(c) produce an SPSS spreadsheet and analyse your results;
(d) write a lab-report summarising what you did and what you found (using Excel for any graphs);
(e) produce a PowerPoint presentation on your findings.
1. Formulate the research question(s) clearly.
2. Identify the population and sample.
3. Design the questionnaire: think about question wording; questionnaire formatting; mode of administration; data analysis.
4. Pre-test the questionnaire.
5. Administer the questionnaire, after it has been revised in the light of (4).
Sample: a subset from a population (e.g. first-year psychology students).
Population: a complete set of things (e.g. all of humanity).
For valid inferences to be made about a population's characteristics, a sample must be representative of its parent population (e.g. similar in age, SES, IQ, etc.)
1. To obtain facts about a person.
2. To obtain information about their attitudes and beliefs.
3. To find out what a person has done (behaviours).
e.g. Payne (1951): "Do you think most manufacturing companies that lay off workers during slack periods could arrange things to avoid layoffs and give steady work throughout the year?"
63% - companies could avoid layoffs.
22% - couldn’t avoid layoffs.
15% - no opinion.
Same question plus phrase "…or do you think layoffs are unavoidable?"
35% - companies could avoid layoffs.
41% - couldn’t avoid layoffs.
24% - no opinion.
5. Avoid the format: "Some people say x: do you agree or disagree?"
6. Avoid unwarranted assumptions. e.g. "What is your occupation?" assumes person has a job.
7. Avoid double-barrelled questions. e.g. "Should immigrants be repatriated and their possessions confiscated?" is two questions.
8. Avoid double negatives. e.g. "Are you against a ban on smoking?"
9. Consider the relative merits of open-ended and
Open-ended: allow unconstrained responses.
e.g. "How do you travel to the University?".
May produce richly detailed responses, but hard and tedious to score.
Closed-ended: require choice from a limited range of alternatives.
e.g. "Do you travel to the University by
(a) bus, (b) car, or (c) unicycle (tick one)".
Easy to code, but prone to bias.
(a) a balanced response scale;
(b) mutually exclusive categories;
(c) facilities for handling "don't know" and "other" responses.
The Likert Scale:
"Criminals should be flogged".
Can be 5-. 7- or 9-point scale (doesn't make much difference).
Visual Analogue Scale:
Strongly agree Strongly disagree
1. May not have an attitude - "doorstep opinions".
2. Attitudes may be complex and multi-dimensional.
3. Attitudes vary in intensity.
4. Expressed attitudes may depend on question wording, sequence and interviewer effects.
1. Memory limitations -
e.g. Chapman and Underwood's (2000) study of drivers' memory for accidents and near-misses.
Can be counteracted by
(a) asking specific questions;
(b) asking for birth date rather than age;
(c) using a chronological format;
2. Response biases due to social desirability or suspicion, especially for illegal or anti-social activities.
Can be counteracted by ensuring anonymity.
1. Do you visit fast food emporia regularly?
Over-complex wording. Exactly what does "regularly" mean?
2. How many burgers do you eat per month?
Assumes you eat burgers.
3. Some people suggest that fast food is leading to increased tooth decay and an increase in obesity amongst teenagers in many parts of the U.K. Do you agree?
Over-long. Includes two separate questions. Implies you should agree with the views expressed.
4. Which of the following methods do you use to travel to your fast-food outlet? (a) Bus (b) Car (c) Bicycle
Does the questioner want you to choose only one option, or can you choose more? No option for responding "other" .
5. Do your children prefer to eat in KFC or Macdonalds?
Assumes you have children.
It's hard to design questionnaires properly!
Always be sceptical of survey results -ask yourself
Who were they collected by?
Who were they collected from?
How were the questions worded, exactly?
Remember - “8 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas" has become "In tests, 8 out of 10 cats who expressed a preference, preferred Whiskas".
Burgess, T.F. (2001). A general introduction to the design of questionnaires for survey research.
Taylor-Powell, E. (1998). Questionnaire design: asking questions with a purpose.
Another useful resource: