The Study Dude – What Bono Knows

Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to write survey questions U2’s lead singer Bono understands.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

This week’s Study Dude looks at the article by Alice Bloch (as cited in Seale) called Doing Social Surveys. Alice teaches how to gather data and how to word your surveys.

Wed the Data Do you want to gather data for your research project? As a final year undergrad, you’ll entertain a research methods course; as a grad student, you’ll wed one.

Even better, do you want to make thousands of dollars on one survey? You can!

I worked for a market research company. A single survey would syphon tens of thousands of dollars out of government grips. And my boss? A salesman; he farmed out the heavy work.

To him, the know-how of proposal writing and PowerPoint seemed secondary to the “connections.”

How did he gain his connections? Maybe through the greenbook: a directory of market research service providers. But I doubt it. The greenbook lists direct competitors and costly services. Perhaps their services fit in the budget of a scholarship-crazy PhD student. Not in my budget. Neither in my lavish boss’s.

And my boss must have had a list of techies to create instant online surveys. Just a nod from him and a Web survey would pop up.

The process for my boss making a five-digit dollar survey? Seamless and behind the scenes.

But somebody did all the heavy-lifting: not me or my boss. We formed a leisurely office of two: he wining-and-dining; me bored at the desk.

Alice Bloch (as cited in Seale) fleshes out ways to gain survey data:
– Face-to-face interviews: These use either interview guides or questionnaires. Interview guides (the qualitative approach) have topics to discuss, but you don’t need to follow the exact order of the guide’s topics. Questionnaires (the quantitative approach) have the exact same words and same order of questions for every respondent. Semi-structured interviews have a combination of both the qualitative and quantitative approach, although you need to code the qualitative parts into categories for statistical analysis.
– Self-completed questionnaire: These can be done through the Web, email, or mail. Make the questions as simple as you can. These questionnaires are cheap and can cover greater terrain than face-to-face interviews.
– Telephone interview: You can use computer-assisted telephone interviews. You enter the respondent’s answers into the computer. These telephone interviews remove the bias that your physical presence has during face-to-face interviews. Telephone interviews can also include a larger geographical area of respondents than face-to-face.

A Double- or Single-Barrel? Yes or No?
When you see a survey question asking your household income, does your finger twitch at the $100,000 plus a year choice? Mine does. Reminds me of buying a lotto ticket while dreaming of 7-11 chicken strips?with plum sauce of course.

As I ponder the high costs of bottled pop, I tend to bias my answer to the double-barreled question “Does Trudeau have nice hair and create economic growth?” The second quarter of contraction of negative 1.2% sums it up: It’s a toupee.

And does Bono have the necessary knowledge to give geopolitical advice? You bet, on low tax hot spots.

Alice Bloch (as cited in Seale) exposes the secrets of correct survey word-choice:
– Write up short, quick, and clear survey questions.
– Pretest your surveys to catch any ambiguity or confusing wordings.
– Avoid double-barrelled questions that ask two questions in one: “Does Trudeau have nice hair and create economic growth?” Well, yes for the hair, no for economic growth. But, you’ve got only one choice: yes or no. A double-barrel.
– Avoid leading questions: “Do you think Bono, given his lack of smarts, has the necessary knowledge to give geopolitical advice?” Now That’s biased.
– Avoid prestige bias: “Do you write A exams?” Well, of course I do. Cough.
– Clarify the frame of reference: “Are you good-looking?” Yes, my grandmother thinks so. Instead, clarify the frame of reference; ask, “How many hours a week do you exercise on average?” or “How many hours of grooming on average do you do each day?” or “How much do you spend on average on clothing and grooming per month?”

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

ReferencesAlice Bloch. “Doing Social Surveys”. In Clive Seale (Ed.). Researching Society and Culture. (2nd Edition). London: SAGE.

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