Selecting the subjects who will be contacted is only the first step in carrying out a survey. Also required is a specific way to ask questions and record answers. Two commonly used techniques are questionnaires and interviews.
A questionnaire is a series of questions or items to which all subjects are asked to respond. In most cases, the respondent is provided with possible responses to each item, so that the process of answering only involves selecting the best response (the format is similar to multiple-choice examination questions). Analyzing the results of the survey is easy because the possible responses have been limited by the researcher. A questionnaire that provides a set of responses to the subject has a closed-ended format.
In some cases, however, a researcher might want to let a subject respond in an entirely free way. In an open-ended format the subjects are able to express their responses however they wish, which allows subtle shades of opinion to come through. Of course, the researcher later has to make sense out of what can be a bewildering array of answers.
How to present the questions to subjects is a major decision for every study that uses a questionnaire. Most often, a questionnaire is mailed to respondents who are asked to complete the form and then return it to the researcher, usually also by mail. This technique is called a self-administered survey. When subjects respond to such questionnaires, no researcher is present, of course; so the questionnaire must be prepared in an attractive way, with clear instructions and questions that are easy to understand. In self-administered surveys, it is especially important to pretest the questionnaire with a small group of people before sending it to all subjects in the study. The small investment of time and money involved can help prevent the costly problem of finding out too late-that instructions or questions were not clear to respondents.
Researchers may also use the interview (sometimes called an interview-survey), which is a questionnaire administered personally to the subject by the researcher. Interviews are especially useful if the items have an open-ended format because the researcher can ask follow-up questions, both to probe a bit more deeply and to clarify the subject's responses. The researcher must be careful not to influence a subject's responses, however; sometimes even raising an eyebrow as someone begins to answer a question can be enough to change a response. The advantage of an interview is that a subject is more likely to complete a questionnaire in the presence of a researcher. One disadvantage is that tracking people down is often a difficult job, and more than one attempt may be necessary. Another is that if all subjects do not live in the same area, the costs of conducting research in this way can become extremely high.
V. Enumerate all methods of sociological research. What method do you consider to be the most productive? Give your reasons.
VI. Answer the following questions:
1. What is defined by a method?
2. What kind of method is an experiment?
3. What are experiments based on?
4. How would you define a hypothesis?
5. What is the goal of an experiment?
6. What steps does an experiment involve?
7. Where is it better to conduct an experiment?
8. In what way would you characterize a survey?
9. What research may be conducted by means of a survey?
10. What is a questionnaire?
11. What kinds of questionnaires may there be?
12. What is the difference between these two types?
13. How may a questionnaire be presented?
14. What is meant by a self-administered survey?
15. What are the advantages and disadvantages of an interview?