Psychology Research Methods 3

  • Created by: Kerrie27
  • Created on: 03-04-15 14:01


What is self-report?

A self-report is any method which involves asking a participant about their feelings, attitidues, beliefs and so on. Self-report methods ask the person for information directly

Examples of self-reports include questionnaries and interviews. Self reports are often used as a way of gaining participants responses in observational studies and experiments. 

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Self-report (Questionnaires)


Questionnaires can be carried out face to face, by telephone or by post.Questionnaires are a type of self report method which consist of a set of questions usually in a highly structured written form. Questionnaires can obtain both open questions and closed questions, and participants record their own answers.

When designing a questionnaire consider- type of data qualitative and/or quantitative data will affect whether you ask closed and/or open questions, ambiguity, double-barrelled questions, leading questions, language, complexity.

Strengths-Relatively cheap, quick and efficent way of obtaining large amounts of information from a large sample of people, data can be collected quickly because the researcher would not need to be present when the questionnaires were completed, useful for large populations when interviews would be impractical, practical. 

Weaknesses-Social desirability as most people want to present a positive image of themselves so may lie or bend the truth to look good, leading questions or unclear questions can be a problem, biased samples as some people are more likely to respond to a questionnaire which might make a sample unrepresentative, ethics regarding confidentiality

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Questionnaires (Closed questions)

Closed questions:

Closed quesitions limit the answers that can be given, they provide a limited choice. Closed questions structure the answer by allowing only answers which fit into categories that have been decided in advanced by the researcher. The options can be restricted to as few as two options or include quite complex lists of alternatives from which the respondent can choose. They give quantitiative data.

Strengths- the data is relatively easy to analyse, the data can be quickly obtained as closed questions they are usually easy to answer, questionnaire can be replicated as the questions are standardised

Weaknesses- less detail is obtained about each participant, do not allow the participant to give in-depth insights, response is fixed meaning there is less scope for respondents to supply answers which rreflect their true feelings on a topic.

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Questionnaires (Open questions)

Open questions:

Open questions are questions where the participant can reply in any way, and in as much detail as they want. Open questions allow people to express what they think in their own words. No pre-set answer options and instead allow participants to put down exactly what they like in their own words.Often used for complex questions that cannot be answered in a few simple categories but requite more detail and discussion.

Strengths- gives detailed and qualitative information, descriptive, no restriction to the response, allow respondate to elaborate their answer meaning  the researcher can find out why a person holds a certain attitude.

Weaknesses- may be hard to analyse as the participants could give very different answers, harder to make comparisons, can be time consuming to collect the data as it takes longer or the respondent to complete open questions, a smaller sample may be obtained.

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Questionnaires (Rating Scales)

Likert Scale:

A statement is used and the participant decides how strongly they agree or disagree with the statements. - strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagreem stongly disagree. Measuring attitudes a simple yes or no answer, they provide quantitative data which is easy to analyse statistically. They may be about agreement, frequency, importance, likelihood.

Strengths-can give an idea about how strongly a participant feels about something, more detail than choosing between two fixed options, allow for degrees of opinion. 

Weaknesses-tendency for people to respond towards the middle of the scale. 

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Questionnaires (Fixed choice questions)

Fixed Choice:

Fixed choice questions are phrased so that the respondent has to make a fixed choice answer usually yes or no.

Strenghts-This type of questionnaire is easy to measure and quantify, it also forces a participant to not choose a middle option, useful in gathering data and standardising responses

Weaknesses-The respondents may not feel that their desired response is avaliable, the answers are not in-depth, it may be that none of the fixed-choice responses appy to the respondent.

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Questionnaires (Reliability and Validity)


The reliability of self-report measures, such as questionnaires can be assessed using the split-half method. This involves spliting a test/questionnaire into two and having the same participant doing both halves of the test. If the two halves of the test provide similar results this would suggest that the test has internal reliability. Could improve the reliaibility in many ways such as ambiguous questions could be clarified.


Questionnaires are said to often lack validity for a number of reasons, participants may life; by giving answers that are desired, it is argued that qualitiative data is more valid than quantiative data. A way of assessing the validity of self-report measures is to compare the results of the self-report with another self-report on the same topic. To improve the validity leading questions could be avoided, open questions could be added to allow respondents to expand upon their replies and confidentially could be reinforced to allow respondents to give more truthful responses.

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Self-report (Interviews)


There are many different ways to conduct an interview, they may be informal or formal, structured or unstructured. Interviews are a type of spoken questionnaire where the interviewer records the responses. Interviews are different from questionnaires as they involve social interaction, unlike questionnaires researchers need training in how to interview (which costs time and money).

Researchers can ask different types of questions which in turn generate different types of data. They may ask closed questions which provide people with a fixed set of responses, whereas open questions allow people to express what they think in their own words.

Quite often interviews will be recorded by the researcher and the data written up as a transcript which can be analysed at a later date. The interviewer must ensure that they take special care when interviewing vulnerable groups such as children. The language used by the interviewer should be appropriate to the vocabularly of the group of people being studied. Interviews may not be the best method to use for researching sensitive topics as people may feel more comfortable completing a questionnaire in private.

Interviews take many forms, some may be very informal whereas others are more structured.

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Interviews (Structured)

Structured interviews:

Structured interviews follow a fixed set of questions that are the same for all partcipants. They may also be known as formal interviews.The questions are asked in a set/standardised order and the interviewer will not deviate from the interview schedule or probe beyond the answers recieved (so they are not flexible). The interview schedule is a list of questions that you are going to ask during the interview, structured interviews are standardised and follow a fixed format, questions are given in a specific order.

 Strengths-Structured interviews are easy to replicate as a fixed set of closed questions are used which are easy to quantify, fairly quick to conduct, interviews have consistency because everyone is being asked the same set of questions, 

Weaknesses- They are not flexible which means new questions cannot be asked during the interview, the answers from strucutred interviews can lack detail because of closed questions, interviewer has to stick to the agreed questions even though interesting lines of enquiry might emerge in an interview.

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Interviews (Unstructured)

Unstructured interviews:

Unstructured interviews are more like a 'Guided Conversation' than a strict structured interview. An interview schedule might not be used, and even if one is used they will contain open-ended questions that can be asked in any order. Some questions may be added/missed out as the interview progresses. These interviews may have a set of discussion topics, but are less constrained about how the conversation goes.

Strengths-More flexible as questions can be adpated and changed depending on the respondents' answers, respondents may be able to talk in more depth and qualitative data can be gained, can develop more understanding, increased validity because it gives the interviewer the opportunity to probe for a deeper understanding, they can ask for clarification etc.

Weaknesses-Can be very time consuming, may be difficult to analyse the data, might steer off topic, unstructured interviews can develop in all sorts of directions this makes comparison between data from different interviews difficult

Psychologists often carry out semi-structured interviews which consist of some pre-determined questions and followed up with further questions which allow the respondent to develop their answers.

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