Unit 3: Quantitative Research Methodology
Survey Research Design
1. Survey Research in the Social Sciences
Survey research involves the collection of information from a sample of individuals through their responses to questions. It is an exceptionally efficient and productive method for investigating a wide array of social research questions.
Many researchers turn to survey research because it is an efficient method for systematically collecting data from a broad spectrum of individuals and social settings. As you may have probably observed, a great many social scientists-as well as newspaper editors, political pundits, and marketing gurus-make the same methodological choice, In fact, surveys have become such a vital part of our society’s social fabric that we cannot assess much of what we read in the newspaper or see on TV without having some understanding of this method of data collection.
Attractions of Survey Research
Regardless of its scope, survey research owes its continuing popularity to three features: versatility, efficiency and generalizability.
First and foremost, survey methods are versatile. Although a survey is not the ideal method for testing all hypotheses or learning about every social process, a well-designed survey can enhance our understanding of just about any social issue. The broad range of measures that can bet used in a survey research have made it the focus of measurement development work.
Surveys also are popular because data can be collected from many people at relatively low cost, and depending on the survey design, relatively quickly. Surveys are also efficient because many variables can be measured without substantially increasing time or cost. Also important to efficiency are the many survey organizations that provide the trained staff and proper equipment for conducting high-quality surveys.
Survey methods lend themselves to probability sampling from large populations. Thus, survey research is very appealing when sample generalizability is a central research goal. In fact, survey research is often the only means available for developing a representative picture of the attitudes and characteristics of a large population.
2. Writing Questions
Questions are the centerpieces of survey research. Because the way they are worded can have a great effect on the way they are answered, selecting good questions is the single most important concern for survey researchers. All hope for achieving measurement validity is loss unless the questions in a survey are clear and convey the intended meaning to respondents.
(5) Guidelines for writing good Survey Questions:
• Survey questions must be asked of many people, not just one. • The same survey question must be used with each person, not tailored to the specifics of a given conversation. • Survey questions must be understood in the same way by people who differ in many ways. • You will not be able to rephrase a survey question if someone doesn’t understand it because that would result in a different question for that person. • Survey respondents don’t know you and so can’t be expected to share the nuances of expression that help you and your friends and family to communicate.
3. Designing Questionnaires
Survey questions are answered as part of a questionnaire or interview schedule, not in isolation from other questions. The context created by the questionnaire has a major impact on how individual questions are interpreted and whether they are even answered. As a result, survey researchers must give very careful attention to the design of the questionnaire as well as the individual questions that it includes.
Questionnaire The survey instrument containing the questions in a self-administered survey.
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