Questionnaires sociology studies distance

As Unit 3 - Research Methods

Posted by Sam Cook ⋅ May 4, 2011 ⋅ 1 Comment

A questionnaire is a list of pre-set questions to which the participants are asked to answer. A written questionnaire will require the participant to answer the questions in writing. A spoken questionnaire is an interview.

Closed questionnaires – are very structured with the participant having a few set answers to choose from.

Advantages of closed questionnaires

  • Quick to complete
  • Data is quantitative so easy to analyse and compute
  • They allow comparisons to be made with other sets of data
  • The research is easy to repeat

Disadvantages of closed questionnaires

  • You cannot explain a questionnaire to a participant so it could be confusing
  • You cannot follow up with extra questions to gain richer data
  • The participant might not agree with any of the answers they have to choose from

Open-ended questionnaires – are less structured than closed questionnaires. There will normally be a set number of questions, but there is no pre-set choice of answers, so the participant can say whatever they want. This method will often involve an interview rather than written question.

Advantages of open questionnaires

  • The participant isn’t limited by set answers, so they can express what they really mean and explain why they think this
  • The interviewer can follow up with more questions, meaning you get richer data
  • In general you get richer data because the answers will be longer and more in depth

Disadvantages of open questionnaires

  • You get qualitative data, which is hard to quantify and analyse
  • This makes it hard to compare one set of data with another
  • The interviewer has to interpret the data, and they could interpret it differently to how the participant meant it.

Postal or self-complete questionnaires – are when the participant picks up or is sent a questionnaire which they fill out themselves and return by post or via the internet.

Advantages of postal or other self-completion questionnaires

  • They are cheap, especially if done over the internet
  • Results are obtained quickly
  • People can respond whenever they want, not just when  an interviewer is present
  • Participants are more likely to give personal or embarrassing responses if they have the privacy of a self-completion questionnaire
  • There is less risk of interviewer bias

Disadvantages of postal or other self-completion questionnaires

  • There is a very low response rate with self-completion questionnaires as there is no real pressure to complete them
  • You are likely to get a certain group of people, for example the unemployed or elderly that answer the questionnaire as many other people might be too busy, and so you won’t get a particularly representative sample.
  • There is no way of knowing whether the right person actually completed the survey or if someone else did it for them
  • The interviewer isn’t there to ask follow up questions and explain questions the participants if they don’t understand



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