Research Methods - Questionnaires

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  • Questionnaires
    • Closed-Ended Questions
      • Respondents must choose from a limited range of answers the researcher has selected
        • Often pre-coded for ease of analysis
    • Open-Ended Questions
      • Respondents are free to answer how they wish
        • No pre-selected choices are offered by the researcher
    • Practical Issues
      • Strengths
        • Quick and cheap way to gather large amounts of data
        • No need to recruit and train interviewers
        • Data is usually easy to quantify and can be computer-processed to reveal relationships between variables
      • Limitations
        • Data is often limited and superficial
        • It may be necessary to offer incentives to persuade respondents to complete the questionnaire
        • Cannot be sure whether posted or emailed questionnaires have actually reached the respondent
        • Very low response rates are an issue
        • Questionnaires aren't flexible
          • Researchers cannot probe or explore new areas of interest
        • Questionnaires are only a snapshot in time
          • Fail to capture changes in attitudes and behaviour
    • Theoretical Issues
      • Positivism
        • Take a scientific approach
        • Enable hypotheses to be tested and to identify possible cause-and-effect relationships between different factors
        • Questionnaires are reliable - they're a standardised measuring instrument
        • Questionnaires are representative
          • They're taken on a large scale
          • Use sophisticated sampling techniques to ensure representativeness
        • Questionnaires are detached and a scientific form of research
          • Researcher involvement is kept to a minimum
      • Interpretivism
        • Seek to discover the meanings that underlie our actions and from which we construct social reality
        • Lack of contact between the researcher and respondent fails to produce a valid picture of the respondents' meanings
        • Respondents may lie, forget or not understand the questions asked
          • They may try to please or second-guess the researcher
        • Questionnaires impose the researcher's framework of ideas on the respondent
          • May distort the reality and undermine the validity of the responses

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