QUESTIONNAIRE RESEARCH DESIGN





QUESTIONNAIRE RESEARCH DESIGN


Keywords; tool of data collection; constructing a questionnaire; follow-up procedure
; cover letter; ranking questions; double-barrel question; secondary information

Having stated your research problem or topic, chosen your methodology, reviewed the literature and completed the preparatory stages, you now have to develop a research design. But what precisely a research design is?
There are many definitions of research design. Here are some examples from leading authors, reproduced.

1. The research design consist the blue prints for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data. It aids the scientist in the allocation of his limited resources by posing crucial choices.
It includes an outline of what the investigator will do from writing hypotheses and their operational implications to final analysis of data. A structure is the frame work, organization or configuration of the relationship among variables of the study. A research design expresses both the structure of the research problem and the plan of investigation used to obtain empirical evidence on relations of the problem.

These definitions differ in details but together they give the essentials of a research design.
First, the design is a plan for selecting the source and types of informationused to answer the research question.
Second, it is a frame work for specifying the relationship between the study variables.
Third, it is a blueprint that out line each procedure from the hypotheses to the analysis of data.
The design provides answers to such questions like
                       
a. What techniques will be used to collect data?
B. what kind of sampling will be used?
c. How will time and cost constraints be dealt with?
            This means a research design indicates that
            A. how your data will be collected, analyzed and interpreted,
            b. And the type of sampling or how much data?
            c. Method of data collection & analysis to be used.
 In practical term it includes
A. scope of the study
B. importance of the study
C. objectives / purpose of the study/Research Question
 d. Tools of data collection
 e. Sample and sampling
 f. Limitations of the study if any
G. time frame and Cost if any (this applies to a project type research) not Ph.D. / academic research
  TOOL OF DATA COLLECTION
You have to select a proper tool of data collection so that there should be no in-built errors in the data at the analysis stage.
Collecting the relevant data is equally as important as the way you draw your sample. Data collection method will vary according to the type of information you need, the research question and the resources at your disposal.   For example                                 
 Questionnaire data will tell us about how people felt about a particular situation like earth quake but will not be consistent with how they will actually behave when the situation in question  arise.
CORRESPONDENCE/ (QUESTIONNAIRE)
Questionnaires are one of the most used social research techniques
It is a document containing a set of questions on a specific topic, for respondents to complete themselves to elicit information (a self- completion questionnaire)  
Questionnaires are mostly used for postal surveys but they can also be distributed by hand e.g. in a school/ college/ work place etc. questionnaire follows a standardized  format in which most questions are pre-coded to provide a list of responses for selection by the respondents.
The questions must be so phrased so that they are immediately comprehensible because respondents will not be able to obtain assistance with anything they do not understand.  
Advantages and disadvantages of questionnaire
·         The big advantage of self–completion questionnaire is that a large population can be surveyed cheaply.
·         Costs are lower as interviewers are not used.
·         Pre-coding and computerization speed up analysis. It is also possible for respondent to fill it a time convenient to them.
·         You can use internet to send the questionnaire.
·         The biggest disadvantage of postal surveys is that the mortality rate is high and in many instances the response in less than 50%. 
·         It cannot be served to illiterate people.
·         In many instances the responses are incomplete, illegible and incomprehensible.
·         The researcher must also have information about the target population in advance. 
 Constructing a questionnaire
There are five aspects you need to consider when constructing a questionnaire, namely
A. Cover letter
B. The instructions
C. The structure of the questionnaire itself
D. Lay out and
E. follow-up procedure
a. Cover letter
A cover letter is not only a courtesy letter but it is essential and need to be properly worded, if you want people to take your survey serious and be willing to participate.
The cover letter can make a difference between whether people will return your questionnaire or agree to a telephone/ personal interview. Be ready for many drafts to get the right tone and form of your covering letter.
Contents of the covering letter, your covering letter must mention
·         What organization you represent (letter head of the organization).
·         Who you are (introduce yourself and your role in the study).
·         What the survey is about (What the survey is for and why it is important
·         What it is aiming to achieve (optional).
·         How the person was chosen and why his response is important
·         Assurance about anonymity and confidentiality of the information and informant
·         About their right not to participate
·         If you are using a code no. to follow non-respondents, you need to explain it,
·         General information about the research procedure whether they will be contacted again, who will interview them, reply dates etc.
·         Contact no. for further questions
·         Example of a covering letter

Dept. of Education and Research,
            University of Peshawar.
            Nov. 12, 2008
            Dear Sir/ Madame;-
  I am a part of a research team employed by the University of Peshawar.  We are researching why people send their children to private schools than public schools which cost them a lot of money.
            Please fill in the enclosed questionnaire. Everyone who has a child in a private school is sent one questionnaire. Your response will help the policy makers in improving the quality of education, if that is the reason.
            Your participation is totally voluntary. You can refuse not to do so, if you do this, your help will be highly appreciated. 
You will see that although personal questions are asked; you do not identify yourself. The information you provide, is completely confidential. Only your post code, age and gender are requested so that comparison can be made on the basis of age, sex and area. The University will not know who answered the survey, it is sent to us not the University.
Please ring me on the above telephone no. if you have any query about us or the project.
 Your time in filling the questionnaire will be greatly appreciated. It should not take more than ten minutes.
When you have completed the questionnaire, please send it back to us in the provided pre-paid envelope addressed to us not later than ten day after you received it.
   Thank you for your time and cooperation.

             ABC khan
            Research Associate

B. instructions
            There are three types of instructions you need to give when sending your mailed questionnaire or having a structured interview.
i. General instructions about the whole survey; - These are normally included in the cover letter but sometimes they are repeated as the introductory paragraph. The general instructions include like,
·         who can fill the questionnaire,
·         how you want the questions answered and
·         in what order ( that all questions be answered)
·         How to return the document and by what date?
The second type of instructions include introduction of the different parts of the questionnaire. These are important to have ‘flow ‘of the questionnaire e.g.
In this section you are asked some back ground information so that we should know what different types of people think about the private schooling
At the end of the questionnaire you must thank the respondent and if possible, give your contact no. for further questions if you are asked.
The third type of instructions pertain to specific guide liens about some questions like
Pl. tick-mark one box only which suits most to your housing conditions
 The house you live in, is
Owned by self/ spouse                 owned by self and others
Privately rented                        public rented
Rent through organization                    Free
You can also filter questions if not applicable like if no,
Please go to question __ 19 etc.
C. Questionnaire structure
A good questionnaire is structured similar to a good conversation. It is advisable to establish a rapport with the respondent at first.
Ask enjoyable, interesting questions at first which are not too difficult, challenging or personal.
Guide the respondent then through series of questions which are grouped into topics or sections. It is advisable to move from easy to hard, concrete to abstract, from simple to complex questions, from impersonal to more personal or sensitive questions. It is more likely that respondents will    answer personal questions like age, sex, marital status easily.
Thank the respondent
Remind the return of the questionnaire
d. Lay out of the questionnaire
Lay out and presentation of your questionnaire does matter especially for mailed questionnaire. They may not matter in case of interview schedules as they are meant for the interviewers eyes.
It is now accepted that color of the envelope and paper will attract a response rate on your questionnaire.
 Most researcher advice one side printing of the page. People forget to answer on the second page mostly. It will leave more space for answering in detail/extra notes on the blank page.
Take advantage of the different font sizes on the computer to make a distinction between a question and instructions.
·         Instructions/ filter questions should be visible.
·         Do not make the page look over crowded.
·         Leave enough space for answer to open-ended questions.
·         Leave enough space for column on the right for computer coding.
e. Follow –up procedures
            When sending out questionnaire, it must be thought what to do in case of non-response.
            You can do one of these.
1. Give an identity no. to each questionnaire. You will have a track record of those who have returned and those who did not.
2. You can send a reminder post-card, after a week after the survey was due thanking those who have replied and reminding those who have not.
3. After another week or so another reminder in the shape of a new questionnaire and a new cover letter is sent to those who did not reply.
4. You can also make telephone calls but it is important to note that
You need not to harass the respondent. They have every right to refuse and not to participate.   
Type of questions
Two types of questions can be asked through questionnaire, namely,
  1. Closed questions and
  2. Open ended questions.
            Example of open ended question
We would like to hear from you any further comments ---------___________________________________________________ Closed ended questions can be of many types like;
a. Quantity or information
            In which year did you enter on to the full time degree______?
 b. Category;
    Have you ever been or are you now involved almost full time in domestic duties (as housewife/ house husband)

Yes (currently)             Yes (in the past)               Never
 C.  List or multiple choices
           
    Do you view the money you spent on higher education as something any of the following;-
A Luxury            and investment              a necessity 
A gamble              a burden                    a right                    
None of these          
    D. Scale
     How would you describe your present attitude to higher education?
     (Please tick one answer).

Very positive                             mixed/neutral              negative                 very negative            

E. Ranking questions;-

  What do you see the main purpose (s) of your higher degree study?
Please rank all those relevant in order from 1 onward.
Personal development             Career advancement                 
Subject interest                       Recreation                           
Fulfill ambition                       keeping stimulated         
Others (Please specify)                                                              
F. Complex grid/ table form
How would you rank the benefits of your degree for each of the following;-

Nature of questions
Questionnaire questions can be about
1. Attributes
2. Attitude
3. Beliefs
4. Behavior and many aspects of life. You have to word the questionnaire according to the nature of the study.
1. ATTRIBUTES
These like questions are about the personal or socio-economic characteristics .g. age, sex, education, income, religion, marital status etc.
Behavior questions
Behavior constitutes what the individual has done, is doing and may possibly do in the future. E.g.
Have you ever belonged to a political organization/
 Yes ______                                 No________
Are you a member of any political organization/party at the moment/
Yes _______________ No__________________
Do you intend to join any political organization in future?
Most likely______ Most unlikely_________
Don’t know___________________.
            (You need to explain and define a political organization)
           
Belief questions
Beliefs can be assessed by asking whether some thing is true or false
E.g. the no. of drug addicts diagnosed as HIV positive, have grown rapidly during the last two years true   / false
Attitude questions
Attitude implies evaluation and is concerned with how people feel about something / issue. These like questions employ scales: a statement is made and individuals are asked to indicate their level of agreement in a positive or negative direction e.g.
I think all cars should be made to drive on CNG
   Strongly favor
   Favor
  Neither in favor nor against
Against
Strongly against
SOME MORE GUIDELINES
While asking questions or preparing your questionnaire, please keep in mind the ‘Do’ and the “Don’t” as follow;-
1. Relevance of the questions
   It is important to consider the ability and willingness of the respondents to answer the questions. It should be assessed that those to be studied will have the knowledge to answer the questions? Whether the questions are relevant to them? Whether they are willing to reveal the information?

2. Clarity
    It is important that there should be no ambiguity in the questions and worded so that they are easily comprehended by the respondents. 
Although this applies both to questionnaire and interview schedule, but in case of interview schedule there is someone to guide the respondent incase he/she does not understand nay question. In case of questionnaire, confusion will discourage the response rate.
It is argued that question wording is a significant problem in survey research. It is important to have a shared vocabulary between the researcher and the respondent. Wording should not be too simple or too difficult to understand. Jargon should be avoided. Words like social interaction, socialization, alienation may be common words for sociologist but difficult for ordinary man to understand.
Now it is established that 5% of the population are functionally illiterate.  
If majority of the samples come from a particular group, like doctors, laborers, teachers, etc. use their vocabulary. E.g. if you use words like secondary and higher secondary, for ordinary people in Pakistan, they will not understand it. Instead if you use words like metric ad intermediate etc, will be easily understood.
Please do not ask
            1. Leading questions
  In most of the TV interviews the word ‘don’t you agree’ or ‘is it not the case’ are mostly used. The purpose is to lead the respondent to agree to some particular idea.
            If you ask employees of an organization that ‘don’t you agree that IER is the best place to work, or isn’t it the case that IER offers the best range of benefits to employees? Rather an open ended question like what benefits are there in working for IER? Or a closed ended question like, Does IER offer the following benefits
    Pension---------      Accommodation________ Free medical treatment______ Housing allowance, ______ etc.   
2. Double-Barrel question
 A double barrel question is one in which you ask two questions in one questions e.g.
 In the course of your work for IER do you often travel abroad and do you save a lot of money?
This is confusing.
A person may travel abroad but not make more money. Or if you ask someone do you know about the admission policy of IER and what is your opinion about it?
The person may know but not have any opinion or the person may travel abroad but not make more money. In many case such questions have a high mortality rate.
3. Double negatives
 It is also advisable to avoid double negatives like  do you think those not over 20 years of age , should not join IER? Here the term ’no’ means what?
4. Hypothetical question
  What would you do if… or would you like to have a high income….. Would you like to marry a beautiful, educated   and rich girl_________ etc will always be answered in yes or desired response.
These are called ‘slanty’ questions.
5. Secondary information
It is not advisable to ask someone about someone else’s opinion or about a third person opinion or request secondary information. For example if you ask a respondent ‘do you think your brother will vote/ has voted for PPP in the election? A respondent may not know his brother’s opinion about voting opinion/ voting experience. Yes some factual question like age of your brother, income (approximately education, residence etc. can be asked. 
6. Periodicity
   if you ask someone how many days a week he/ she reads  newspaper, one a week________ three days____ daily_____ when available ____________  will be more answered than if you ask him/ her
 Do you read newspaper regularly________ often_________ frequently___________ are too vague and should be avoided? 


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