Data Collection Methods

A questionnaire is a preformatted written set of questions to which respondents record their answers usually within rather closely defined alternatives. Questionnaires are an efficient data collection mechanism when the researcher knows exactly what is required and how to measure the variables of interest. Questionnaires can be administered personally, mailed to the respondents, or electronically distributed. Guidelines for Questionnaire Design Sound questionnaire design principles should focus on three areas.

The first relates to the wording of the questions. The second refers to the planning of issues with regard to how the variables will be categorized, scaled, and coded after receipt of the responses. The third pertains to the general appearance of the questionnaire. All three are important issues in questionnaire design because they can minimize bias in research. The principles of wording refer to such factors as: 1. The appropriateness of the content of the questions. 2. How questions are worded and the level of sophistication of the language used. . The type and form of questions asked. 4. The sequence of the questions. 5. The personal data sought from the respondents. Content and Purpose of the Questions The nature of the variable tapped – subjective feelings or objective facts – determine what kinds of questions are asked. If the variables tapped are of a subjective nature (e. g. , satisfaction, involvement), where respondents’ beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes are to be measured, the questions should tap the dimensions and elements of the concept.

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Where objective variables, such as age and educational levels are tapped, a single direct question – preferably one that has an ordinal scale set of categories – is appropriate. Subjective variables can take on nominal scale while objective variables can take on ordinal scale measurement. Language and Wording of the Questionnaire The language of the questionnaire should approximate the level of understanding of the respondents. The choice of words should depend on their level of education, the usage of terms and idioms in the culture, and the frames of reference of the respondents.

For instance, even when English is the spoken or official language in two cultures, certain words may be alien to one culture. Terms such as “working here is drag,” and “she is a compulsive worker,” may not be interpreted the same way in different cultures. Students from other discipline may not understand terms such as p value, confidence level, confidence interval, type I error , and type II error. Such terms may sound alien to them. Thus it’s essential to word the questions in a way that can be understood by the respondent.

If some questions are either not understood or are interpreted different by the respondent, the researcher will obtain the wrong answers to the questions, and the responses will thus be biased. Therefore, the questions asked, the language used, and the wording should be appropriate to tap respondents’ attitudes, perceptions, and feelings. Types and form of questions The type of questions refers to whether the question is open-ended or closed. The form of the question refers to whether it is positively or negatively worded.

Open-ended versus closed questions: Open-ended questions allow respondents to answer them in any way they choose. An example of an open-ended question is asking the respondent to state five things that are interesting and challenging in the job. Another example is asking what the respondents like about their supervisors or their work environment. A third example is to invite their comments on the investment portfolio of the firm. A closed question, in contrast, asks the respondents to make choices among a set of alternatives given by the researcher.

For instance, instead of asking the respondent to state any five aspects of the job that she finds interesting and challenging, the researcher might list 10 or 15 aspects that might seem interesting or challenging in the job and ask the respondents to rank the first five among these in the order of their preference. All items in a question using a nominal, ordinal, likert, or ratio scale are considered closed. Closed questions help the respondents to make quick decisions to choose among the several alternatives before them.

Closed questions also help the researcher to code the information easily for subsequent analysis. Care must be taken to ensure the alternatives are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Positively and Negatively Worded Questions Instead of phrasing all questions positively, it’s advisable to include some negatively worded questions as we, so the tendency in respondents to mechanically circle the points toward one end of the scale is minimized. Likewise, double-barreled questions should be avoided.

A question that lends itself to different possible responses to its subparts is called a double-barreled question. For example, the question, “Do you think there is a good market for the product and that it will sell well? Could bring a “yes” response to the first part (i. e. , there is a good market for the product) and a “no” response to the latter part (i. e. , it will not sell well for various other reasons). In this case it would be better to ask two separate questions. Similarly, even questions that are not double-barreled might be ambiguously worded and the respondents may not be sure what exactly they mean.

An example of such a question is “To what extent would you say you are happy? Different respondents would interpret this differently. Leading questions should also be avoided. Questions should not be phrased in such a way that they lead the respondents to give the responses that the researcher would like them to give. An example of such a question is: “Don’t you think that in these days of escalating costs of living, employees should be given good pay raises? ” Questions should not be phrased in a suggestive manner. Socially desirable questions should also be avoided.

Length of question is also important. Simple, short questions are preferable to long ones. As a rule of thumb, a question or a statement in the questionnaire should not exceed 20 words, or exceed one full line in print. Sequencing of Questions The sequence of questions in the questionnaire should be such that the respondent is led from questions of a general nature to those that are more specific, and from questions that are relatively easy to answer to those that are progressively more difficult. This approach is called the funnel approach.

Questions about personal information should be avoided. If it’s necessary to ask personal information such as age and income, they should ask for such information by providing a range of response options, rather than seeking exact figures. For example, the variables may be tapped as shown below: Age (years)Annual Income Under 20Less than P64,000 20 – 30P64,000 – P74,000 31 – 40P75,000 – P85,000 In educational surveys, it is advisable to gather certain demographic data such as age, educational level, gender, job title, and number of years in the organization.

In all cases, confidentiality, anonymity, and privacy must be maintained. Principles of Measurement Just as there are guidelines to be followed to ensure the wording of the questionnaire is appropriate to minimize bias, so also are there some principles of measurement to be followed to ensure that the data collected are appropriate to test our hypotheses. These refer to the scales and scaling techniques used in measuring concepts, as well as assessment of reliability and validity of the measures used .

The type of scale used depends on the type of data that need to be obtained. Whenever possible, the interval and ratio scales should be used in preference to nominal or ordinal scales. Once data are obtained, the goodness of data should be assessed through tests of validity and reliability. Validity establishes how well a technique, instrument, or process measures a particular concept. Reliability indicates how stable and consistently the instrument taps the variable. Finally, the data have to be obtained in a manner that makes for easy categorization and coding.

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