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DH450 : The Class : Research Methods : Surveys : qualitative

Surveys and other Qualitative Methods

Survey Research

Survey Methods

Overall Planning of the Survey
Clarify the research problem and purpose of the survey. The type of research should match the goal:
Exploratory / Correlational / Causal

Theory Application: Is there theory that can be applied?
Ex: If studying patient's decisions about why they choose tooth loss instead of restoration, you may want to apply the theory of reasoned action (which states that other people may influence the decision). You may decide to include questions about who helped them decide what to do etc.

Consider resources needed and whether they are available
Operationalize or define variables

Sampling Plan
Define population
Determine sample size required (more on this later)
Sampling technique: Random /
Systematic / Stratified / Cluster (more on this later)

Instrument Development
Comparison of Survey Types

Type of Data Collection




Personal Interview

  • Scheduling
  • Interviewer skill/training
  • Open-ended questions
  • Probing
  • Time consuming
  • Costly
  • Interviewer bias
  • Respondent bias
  • No anonymity
  • Higher response rate
  • Potential for clarification of ambiguous questions
  • Telephone

  • Interviewer
  • skill/training
  • Design: can't just read a written survey
  • Calling logistics:
  • Timing
  • Finding people at home
  • Costly
  • Higher response rate
  • Potential for clarification of ambiguous answers
  • Less bias than face-to-face
  • Anonymity
  • Written Survey

  • Self-administered
  • Researcher administered
  • Pre-notification (link to sample)
  • Mailing: letter of transmittal (link to sample)
  • Follow-up (link to sample)
  • Questions must be clear
  • Lower return rate
  • Addresses difficult to obtain
  • Can be widely distributed
  • Low cost
  • Confidentiality
  • Types of Surveys

    Item Development
    Ask: What question are you really trying to answer?
    Keep it simple and focused - Make every measure count!

    What will we do with the information from this question?

    Is this question necessary?

    Survey questions Question content

    Developing good survey questions




  • Double negatives
    Eliminate "no" and "not" when possible
  • Vague questions
  • Biased questions
  • Positive/ negative wording
  • "Loaded" wording Ex:"dangeous drugs"
    "Excess spending"
  • Biased limited responses
    Ex: excellent, good,
    fair (no poor rating)
  • Double barreled questions
    Asks more than 1 thing
  • Abbreviations or jargon
  • Objectional (personal) questions
  • Comprehensive, exhaustive categories
    Ex: does not apply, other, don't know
  • Exclusive categories
  • Balanced
    Equal number favorable/unfavorable items
  • Content map
  • Scales Likert
  • Clear and precise language
  • Make items as short as possible
  • Positive wording
  • Measurement scale
    Ex: Frequency: Never, very seldom, seldom, often, very often, all of the time
  • Quality: Poor, below average, average, good, excellent

  • Type of data
    (level: nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio) will effect statistical test you can use to analyze results

  • Number of alternatives Even, odd, middle value
  • Open-Ended or Closed Ended Questions

    Question Type




    Open-Ended Questions

  • When range of answers is very large
  • When want to avoid suggesting answers
  • When want answers in respondents own words
  • More difficult to analyze
  • Sometimes ramble, researcher must pick out intent
  • List the qualifications you look for in a secretary. Place a 1 next to the most important.

    Close-Ended Questions

  • Alternative answers are provided
  • Ex: multiple choice
  • When large number of respondents and questions
  • When answers are to be machine scored
  • When responses from several groups are to be compared
  • More reliable interpretation
  • May not be truly representative of answer by respondent
  • Rank each of the following qualifications in terms of its importance: Typing Shorthand Etc.

    Develop Analysis Plan

    When do you need the data?
    How will data be scored, compiled, interpreted

    Pilot Test

    Always pretest any questionaire!

    See if instructions are clear
    See if categories are exhaustive, exclusive

    Assemble and print the survey

    Data collection

    Mail: Letter of transmittal
    Explain aim or purpose /
    Convey importance, persuade to respond / Assure confidentiality
    Short (1 side of 1 page) / Provide your address, phone /Use letterhead
    Return envelop, self addressed, stamped

    Response rate: 30% is minimal acceptable return rate
    To increase return rate:
    Notify people about the survey beforehand
    Explain the purpose to appeal to the respondent
    Provide clear, simple instructions
    Survey should be as short as possible
    Have interesting questions first, demographics last
    Send 1st class so undelivered will be returned
    Hand address
    Use attractive stamps
    Follow-up, using code, with those whom did not respond initially

    Other Methods Used in Qualitative Research: (add link here)

    Grounded Theory
    Unobtrusive measures

    Once you have finished the lesson you should:

    Go on to Open and Closed Questions
    Go back to Surveys and other Qualitative Methods

    E-mail Tricia Moore at Tricia.Moore@nau.edu
    or call (520) 523-4012


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