Questionnaires and Interviews

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Questionnaires and Interviews

When designing a questionnaire, there are several ways you can approach the study:

Use closed questions (fixed choice of answers), to generate data for easy analysis.

Use open questions (space to write any answer) for more detailed individual answers.

Keep questions and instructions clear and easy to understand.

Ask purposeful questions to help find information needed for the study.

Pre-code closed questions for quick analysis of the answers.

Carry out a pilot study first, a test run, making changes if needed.

Use attitude scales to test strength of feeling.

Strengths: Weaknesses:
Many people can be tested quickly. It is easy to generate quantitative data and easy to analyse. Social desirability - people say what they think looks good.
Used to collect large amounts of data about what people think as well as what they do! People may not tell the truth, especially on sensitive issues, for example, sexual behaviour.
Convenient - researcher does not need to be present as answers can be mailed so respondent has time to consider answers. If researcher is present then this may affect answers. Also, postal surveys may have low response rate.
Can quickly show changes in attitudes or behaviour before and after specific events. Difficult to phrase questions clearly, you may obtain different interpretations of questions.

Interviews are face-to-face conversations, these can be unstructured, apparently informal chats, or they can be formal, structured interviews with pre-determined questions. For example, clinical tests used in psychiatry.

Interviews are recorded for later, in-depth analysis.

Strengths: Weaknesses:
Detailed information can be obtained and avoids oversimplifying complex issues. Difficult to analyse if unstructured and qualitative in nature.
Greater attention to individual's point of view this is important in clinical psychology. Time-consuming, expensive.
Unstructured, casual interviews may encourage openness in answers. Possible interviewer effects. For example, people affected by attractiveness of interviewer!

Research can be described as quantitative or qualitative.

Quantitative research: Gathers data in numerical form and is concerned with making 'scientific' measurements. Quantitative data analysis uses a barrage of inferential statistical tests.

Qualitative research: Gathers information that is not in numerical form. For example, diary accounts, open-ended questionnaires, unstructured interviews and unstructured observations.

Qualitative research is useful for studies at the individual level, and to find out, in depth, the ways in which people think or feel.

Analysis of qualitative data is difficult and requires accurate description of participant responses, for example, sorting responses to open questions and interviews into broad themes.

Quotations from diaries or interviews might be used to illustrate points of analysis.

Expert knowledge of an area is necessary to try to interpret qualitative data and great care must be taken when doing so, for example, if looking for symptoms of mental illness.

Accurate descriptions of individual behaviour patterns might be crucial to diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of a person with a mental disorder.

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