PHRASING QUESTIONS

In document Business Research Methods (Page 127-130)

Type II error - An error caused by failing to reject a null hypothesis that is not true

PHRASING QUESTIONS

There are many ways to phrase question, and many standard question formats have been developed in previous research studies. This section presents h classification of question types and provides some helpful guidelines to researchers who must write questions.

Open-Ended Response versus Fixed-Alternative Questions

Questions may be categorized as either of two basic types, according to the amount of freedom respondents are given in answering them. Response questions pose some problem or topic and ask the respondent to answer in his or her own words. For example:

What things do you like most about your job?

What names of local banks can you think of offhand?

What comes to mind when you look at this advertisement?

Do you think that there are some ways in which life in the United States is getting worse? How is that?

If the question is asked in a personal interview, the interviewer may probe for more information by asking such questions as: Anything else? or Could you tell me more about your thinking on that? Open-ended response questions are free-answer

questions. They may be contrasted to the fixed-alternative question, sometimes called a

"closed question", in which the respondent is given specific, limited-alternative

responses and asked to choose the one closest to his or her own viewpoint. For example:

Did you work overtime or at more than one job last week?

Yes ____ No _____

Compared to ten years ago, would you say that the quality of most products made in Japan is higher, about the same, or not as good?

Higher ____ About the same _____ Not as good _____

Open-ended response questions are most beneficial when the researcher is conducting exploratory research, especially if the range of responses is not known. Open-ended questions can be used to learn what words and phrases people spontaneously give to the free-response questions. Respondents are free to answer with whatever is uppermost in their thinking. By gaining free and uninhibited responses, a researcher may find some unanticipated reaction toward the topic. As the responses have the "flavor" of the conversational language that people use in talking about products or jobs, responses to these questions may be a source for effective communication.

Open-ended response questions are especially valuable at the beginning of an interview.

They are good first questions because they allow respondents up warm up to the questioning process.

The cost of open-ended response questions is substantially greater than that of fixed-alternative questions, because the job of coding, editing and analyzing the data is quite extensive. As each respondent's answer is somewhat unique, there is some difficulty in categorizing and summarizing the answers. The process requires an editor to go over a sample of questions to classify the responses in to some sort of scheme, and then all the answers are received and coded according to the classification scheme.

Another potential disadvantage of the open-ended response question is that interviewer may influence the responses. While most instructions state that the interviewer is to record answers verbatim, rarely can even the best interviewer get every word spoken by the respondent. There is a tendency for interviewer to take short-cuts in recording

answers - but changing even a few of the respondents' words may substantially influence the results. Thus, the final answer often is a combination of the respondent's and the interviewer's ideas rather than the respondent's ideas alone.

The simple-dichotomy or dichotomous-alternative question requires the

respondent to choose one of two alternatives. The answer can be a simple "yes" or "no"

or a choice between "this" and "that". For example:

Did you make any long-distance calls last week?

Yes _____ No _____

Several types of questions provide the respondent with multiple-choice alternatives. The determinant-choice questions require the respondent to choose one and only one response from among several possible alternatives. For example:

Please give us some information about your flight. In which section of the aircraft did you sit?

First Class _______ Business Class ______ Coach Class ______

The frequency-determination question is a determinant-choice question that asks for an answer about general frequency of occurrence. For example: How frequently do you watch the MTV television channel?

__ Every day

__ 5-6 times a week __ 2-4 times a week __ Once a week

__ Less than a week __ Never

Attitude rating scales, such as the Likert Scale, Semantic Differential, and Stapel Scale, are also fixed-alternative questions.

The checklist question allows the respondent to provide multiple answers to a single question. The respondent indicates past experience, preference, and the like merely by checking off an item. In many cases the choices are adjectives that describe a particular object. A typical checklist follows:

Please check which of the following sources of information about investments you regularly use, if any.

__ Personal advice of your brokers(s) __ Brokerage newsletters

__ Brokerage research reports __ Investment advisory service(s) __ Conversations with other investors __ Reports on the internet

__ None of these

__ Other (please specify)

Most questionnaires include a mixture of open-ended and closed questions. Each form has unique benefits; in addition, a change of pace can eliminate respondent boredom and fatigue.

Phrasing Questions for Self-Administered, Telephone, and Personal Interview Surveys

The means of data collection (personal interview, telephone, mail, or Internet

questionnaire) will influence the question format and question phrasing. In general, questions for mail and telephone surveys must be less complex than those utilized in personal interviews. Questionnaires for telephone and personal interviews should be written in a conversational style. Consider the following question from a personal interview:

There has been a lot of discussion about the potential health threat to nonsmokers from tobacco smoke in public building, restaurants, and business offices. How serious a

health threat to you personally is the inhaling of this secondhand smoke, often called passive smoking: Is it a very serious health threat, somewhat serious, not too serious, or not serious at all?

1. Very serious 2. Somewhat serious 3. Not too serious 4. Not serious at all 5. Don't know

In document Business Research Methods (Page 127-130)

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