Asking Questions - Norman M. Bradburn - E-Book

Asking Questions E-Book

Norman M. Bradburn

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Since it was first published more than twenty-five years ago,Asking Questions has become a classic guide for designingquestionnaires¾the most widely used method for collectinginformation about people?s attitudes and behavior. An essentialtool for market researchers advertisers, pollsters, and socialscientists, this thoroughly updated and definitive work combinestime-proven techniques with the most current research, findings,and methods. The book presents a cognitive approach toquestionnaire design and includes timely information on theInternet and electronic resources. Comprehensive and concise,Asking Questions can be used to design questionnaires forany subject area, whether administered by telephone, online, mail,in groups, or face-to-face. The book describes the design processfrom start to finish and is filled with illustrative examples fromactual surveys.

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Table of Contents

Cover

Title

Copyright

Dedication

Preface

Acknowledgments

The Authors

Part One: Strategies for Asking Questions

Chapter One: The Social Context of Question Asking

Small Wording Changes that Made Big Differences

Questioning as a Social Process

Ethical Principles in Question Asking

The Research Question Versus the Actual Question Being Asked

Suggestions for Beginners

Sources of Error in Responses

Part Two: Tactics for Asking Questions

Chapter Two: Asking Nonthreatening Questions About Behavior

Checklist of Major Points

Ten Examples of Behavioral Questions

How to Tell if a Question Is Threatening

Eight Ways to Make Behavioral Questions Easier to Answer

Using Respondents as Informants

Summary

Chapter Three: Asking Threatening Questions About Behavior

Checklist of Major Points

Six Examples of Questions on Socially Desirable Behavior

Four Examples of Questions on Socially Undesirable Behavior

Nine Techniques to Make Threatening Questions More Accurate

Determining the Perceived Threat of Questions

Use Additional Sources to Validate Accuracy

Summary

Chapter Four: Asking Questions About Attitudes and Behavioral Intentions

Checklist of Major Points

Identifying the Object of the Attitude

The Three Components of Attitudes

Asking Behavioral Intention Questions

Important Issues When Writing Questions

Bias Related to the Context and Meaning of Adjacent Questions

Cautionary Note

Summary

Chapter Five: Asking and Recording Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions

Checklist of Major Points

Using Open-Answer Formats

Using Closed-Answer Formats

Constructing Response Categories

Using Numerical Rating Scales

Using Rankings

Using Lists

Visual and Manual Aids

Summary

Chapter Six: Asking Questions that Measure Knowledge

Checklist of Major Points

Examples of Knowledge Questions

Techniques and Strategies for Asking Knowledge Questions

Summary

Chapter Seven: Asking Questions that Evaluate Performance

Checklist of Major Points

Employee Rating Techniques

Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales (BARS)

Employer Ratings

Customer, Client, and Patron Ratings

Teacher and Instructor Ratings

Summary

Note

Chapter Eight: Asking Psychographic Questions

Checklist of Major Points

What Are Some Examples of Psychographic Segments?

What Psychographic Questions Should I Ask?

Seven Steps to Generating Psychographic Questions

Summary

Chapter Nine: Asking Standard Demographic Questions

Checklist of Major Points

Asking About Household Size and Composition

Asking About Gender

Asking About Age

Asking About Race and Origin

Asking About Marital Status

Asking About Education

Asking About Employment-Related Issues

Asking About One’s Occupation

Asking About Mobility

Asking About Income

Asking About Religion

Summary

Part Three: Drafting and Crafting the Questionnaire

Chapter Ten: Organizing and Designing Questionnaires

General Formatting Issues

Computer-Assisted Interviewing

Issues in Computer-Assisted Interviewing

Paper Questionnaires

Summary

Chapter Eleven: Questionnaires from Start to Finish

Steps in Preparing a Questionnaire

The Testing Procedure

Using Pilot-Test Results

Last-Minute Revisions and Post-Interview Evaluations

Concluding Remarks

Chapter Twelve: Asking Questions FAQs

What Questions Should I Ask?

Are There Words I Should Avoid Using?

What Makes a Good Question?

When Should I Ask Ranking Questions?

How Should I Order My Categories?

What Scale Should I Use…4-Point or 7-Point?

How Many Response Categories Should I Have?

What About Open-Ended Questions?

How Should the Questions Be Ordered?

How Do I Know My Questionnaire Is Complete?

Bibliography and Recommended Readings

Glossary

Index

Appendix A: List of Academic and Not-for-Profit Survey Research Organizations

Appendix B: Illinois Liquor Control Commission: College Student Survey

Appendix C: Faculty Retention Survey

Appendix D: Kinko’s: Open-ended Service Satisfaction Survey

End User License Agreement

Guide

Cover

Table of Contents

Begin Reading

Pages

Cover

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List of Figures

Chapter One: The Social Context of Question Asking

Figure 1.1. Who is the World’s Greatest Athlete?

Chapter Two: Asking Nonthreatening Questions About Behavior

Figure 2.1. Outdoor Recreation Survey.

Figure 2.2. Questions on Exercise.

Figure 2.3. Questions on Health Care.

Figure 2.4. Household Health Diary.

Figure 2.5. Questions on Childrearing.

Figure 2.6. Questions on Religion.

Figure 2.7. Questions in Lawyers’ Survey.

Figure 2.8. Questions on Farm Practices.

Figure 2.9. 1997 Economic Census: Traveler Accommodations.

Figure 2.10. Questions on Major Household Items.

Chapter Three: Asking Threatening Questions About Behavior

Figure 3.1. Questions on Cancer Screening.

Figure 3.2. Questions on Library Card Ownership.

Figure 3.3. Questions on Reading.

Figure 3.4. Voting Questions.

Figure 3.5. Voting Questions that Improved Accuracy.

Figure 3.6. Survey of Traffic Violations.

Figure 3.7. Questions on Illegal Drug Use.

Figure 3.8. Questions on Alcoholic Beverage Use.

Figure 3.9. Questions on Sexual Activity.

Figure 3.10. Post-Interview Evaluation of Threat.

Chapter Four: Asking Questions About Attitudes and Behavioral Intentions

Figure 4.1. Questions on Daylight Savings Time.

Figure 4.2. Two Formats for Measuring Attitude Toward Free Speech (Abbreviated Questions).

Figure 4.3. Behavioral Intentions Can Link Attitudes and Behaviors.

Figure 4.4. Example of Use of Filters.

Figure 4.5. One-and-a-Half-Barreled-Questions Related to the SALT II Treaty.

Chapter Five: Asking and Recording Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions

Figure 5.1. A Rating Thermometer.

Figure 5.2. Numerical Rating Scale.

Figure 5.3. Ranking Complete Preferences of Job Qualities.

Figure 5.4. Ranking Extreme Preferences of Children’s Qualities.

Figure 5.5. Paired-Comparison Method of Ranking.

Figure 5.6. Two Formats for Listing Adjectives in Self-Descriptions.

Figure 5.7. Card Sorting.

Figure 5.8. Card Sorting in Two Dimensions.

Chapter Six: Asking Questions that Measure Knowledge

Figure 6.1. Questions About U.S. History.

Figure 6.2. Questions About World War II.

Figure 6.3. Questions About Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering.

Figure 6.4. Questions About Authors.

Figure 6.5. Questions Concerning Name Recognition.

Figure 6.6. Questions About Health Knowledge.

Figure 6.7. Questions About Products and Companies.

Figure 6.8. Questions Asked of Community Informants.

Figure 6.9. Neighborhood Information from Residents.

Figure 6.10. Questions About Various Occupations.

Figure 6.11. Selected Questions from National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Chapter Seven: Asking Questions that Evaluate Performance

Figure 7.1. Comparison of Methods for Collecting Job Analysis Data.

Figure 7.2. Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) for Evaluating College Professors.

Figure 7.3. Example of a Graphics Rating Scale with Numerical and Verbal Anchors.

Figure 7.4. Example of a Checklist.

Figure 7.5. Illustration of a Client Evaluation Scale.

Figure 7.6. Illustration of a Course Improvement Questionnaire.

Figure 7.7. Evaluation Items Related to Instructor Effectiveness.

Figure 7.8. Teacher Evaluation Questionnaire.

Chapter Eight: Asking Psychographic Questions

Figure 8.1. Lifestyle and Personality Variables Used to Differentiate Soup Preferences.

Chapter Ten: Organizing and Designing Questionnaires

Figure 10.1. Unacceptable Formats of Commonly Asked Questions.

List of Tables

Chapter Eight: Asking Psychographic Questions

Table 8.1. Eight Psychographic Segments Used by VALS.

Table 8.2. Examples of Psychographic Questions Used in Constructing VALS Profiles.

Table 8.3. Some Examples of Individual Difference Variables.

Chapter Ten: Organizing and Designing Questionnaires

Table 10.1. Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Survey Methods.

Asking Questions

The Definitive Guide to Questionnaire Design— For Market Research, Political Polls, and Social and Health Questionnaires, Revised Edition

Norman M. Bradburn

Seymour Sudman

Brian Wansink

Copyright © 2004 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.

Published by Jossey-BassA Wiley Imprint989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741 www.josseybass.com

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978-750-8400, fax 978-646-8600, or on the web at www.copyright.com. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, 201-748-6011, fax 201-748-6008, e-mail: [email protected]

Jossey-Bass books and products are available through most bookstores. To contact Jossey-Bass directly call our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 800-956-7739, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3986, or fax 317-572-4002.

Jossey-Bass also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Bradburn, Norman M. Asking questions : the definitive guide to questionnaire design—formarket research, political polls, and social and health questionnaires /Norman M. Bradburn, Brian Wansink, Seymour Sudman.—Rev. ed.  p. cm. Earlier ed. by Sudman and Bradburn with Sudman named first. Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index. ISBN 0-7879-7088-3 (alk. paper) 1. Social sciences—Research. 2. Questionnaires. I. Wansink, Brian. II. Sudman, Seymour. III. Title.  H62.B63 2004  300′.72′3—dc22

2004001683

FIRST EDITION

This book is dedicated to the memory of our colleagueand coauthor Seymour Sudman who died tragicallywhile we were in the midst of writing this book.His spirit and wisdom have continued to inspireus as we brought this manuscript to press.He lives on in this book.

Preface

This book is a revised and updated edition of Asking Questions: A Practical Guide to Questionnaire Design, first published in 1982. It focuses on the type of question asking that social science researchers and market researchers use in structured questionnaires or interviews. Many of the principles of effective formalized questioning we focus on in this book are useful in other contexts. They are useful in informal or semistructured interviews, in administering printed questionnaires in testing rooms, and in experimental studies involving participant evaluations or responses.

We intend this book to be a useful “handbook” for sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, evaluation researchers, social workers, sensory scientists, marketing and advertising researchers, and for many others who have occasion to obtain systematic information from clients, customers, or employees.

In the past two decades, two major changes in the practice of survey research prompted us to produce a revised edition. First, there has been a revolution in research on question asking brought about by the application of cognitive psychology to the study of questionnaire design. We now have a conceptual framework for understanding the question-answering process and the causes of the various response effects that have been observed since the early days of social scientific surveys. This work has helped move questionnaire construction from an art to a science.

Second, there has been a technological revolution in the way computers can be used to support the survey process. Computer-assisted survey information collection (CASIC) refers to a variety of specialized programs used to support survey data collection—for example, CAPI (computer-assisted personal interviewing) or CATI (computer-assisted telephone interviewing), to name the most common forms of CASIC. The greater use of computer technology at every stage of data collection in surveys has made many of the suggestions in our earlier edition obsolete and necessitated a thorough reworking of discussion that was predicated on traditional paper-and-pencil questionnaires. We are also beginning an era of Web-based surveys. Although there is still much to learn about this new method of conducting surveys, we have tried to incorporate what we know at this time into our discussions where relevant.

We have tried to make the book self-contained by including major references. Some readers, however, may wish to refer to our earlier books, Response Effects in Surveys: A Review and Synthesis (Sudman and Bradburn, 1974); Improving Interview Method and Questionnaire Design: Response Effects to Threatening Questions in Survey Research (Bradburn, Sudman, and Associates, 1979); Thinking About Answers (Sudman, Bradburn, and Schwarz, 1996); and Consumer Panels, (Sudman and Wansink, 2002), for more detailed discussion of the empirical data that support our recommendations.

This book is specifically concerned with questionnaire construction—not with all aspects of survey design and administration. Although we stress the careful formulation of the research problems before a questionnaire is designed, we do not tell you how to select and formulate important research problems. To do so requires a solid knowledge of your field—knowledge obtained through study and review of earlier research, as well as hard thinking and creativity. Once the research problem is formulated, however, this book can help you ask the right questions.

The book is divided into three parts. In Part I we discuss the social context of question asking. We present our central thesis, namely that questions must be precisely worded if responses to a survey are to be accurate; we outline a conceptual framework for understanding the survey interview and present examples to illustrate some of the subtleties of language and contexts that can cause problems. We also discuss some of the ethical principles important to survey researchers—the right to privacy, informed consent, and confidentiality of data.

Part II is devoted to tactics for asking questions. In Chapters Two through Nine we consider the major issues in formulating questions on different topics, such as the differences between requirements for questions about behavior and for questions about attitudes. We also consider how to ask questions dealing with knowledge and special issues in designing questions that evaluate performance, measure subjective characteristics, and measure demographic characteristics.

In Part III we turn from the discussion of the formulation of questions about specific kinds of topics to issues involved in crafting the entire questionnaire. We discuss how to organize a questionnaire and the special requirements of different modes of data collection, such as personal interviewing, telephone interviewing, self-administration, and electronic surveying. We end with a set of frequently asked questions and our answers.

Throughout the book we use terms that are well understood by survey research specialists but that may be new to some of our readers. We have therefore provided a glossary of commonly used survey research terms. Many of the terms found in the Glossary are also discussed more fully in the text. In addition, we have included a list of academic and not-for-profit survey research organizations in Appendix A.

The chapters in Part II are introduced with a checklist of items to consider. The checklists are intended as initial guides to the major points made and as subsequent references for points to keep in mind during the actual preparation of a questionnaire.

Readers new to designing surveys should read sequentially from beginning to end. Experienced researchers and those with specific questionnaire issues will turn to appropriate chapters as needed. All readers should find our detailed index of use.

In this book we have distilled a vast amount of methodological research on question asking to give practical advice informed by many years of experience in a wide variety of survey research areas. But much is still not known. We caution readers seeking advice on how to write the perfect questionnaire that perfection cannot be guaranteed. For readers who wish to do additional research in questionnaire design, much interesting work remains to be done.

Acknowledgments

While we were in the process of writing this new edition, Seymour Sudman died tragically. His vast knowledge of the research literature, deep experience, and wise judgment continue to enrich this volume. We miss him greatly.

This edition builds on its predecessor and all those who contributed to it. We are indebted to many colleagues at the Survey Research Laboratory (SRL), University of Illinois, and at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), University of Chicago. These colleagues include Herbert Jackson, who compiled the material for Chapter Twelve, and Matthew Cheney, Sarah Jo Brenner, and Martin Kator, who helped in manuscript preparation by compiling and summarizing recently published findings in the area of survey design.

At Jossey-Bass, Seth Schwartz and Justin Frahm: We are grateful for their patience with the sometimes distracted authors and for their inventive solutions to the inevitable challenges that arose in turning a manuscript into an aesthetically pleasing book. Readers, as do we, owe them all a deep debt of gratitude.

Norman BradburnArlington, Virginia

Brian WansinkUrbana, Illinois

August 2003

The Authors

Norman M. Bradburn (Ph.D. Harvard University, 1960) is the Margaret and Tiffany Blake Distinguished Service Professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology and the Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. He has written widely, often with Seymour Sudman, on topics in survey methodology. He was a pioneer in the application of cognitive psychology to the design of survey questionnaires. For a number of years, he was the director of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. He is currently the assistant director for social, behavioral, and economic sciences at the National Science Foundation.

Seymour Sudman (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1962) was the Walter H. Stellner Distinguished Professor of Marketing at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) from 1968 until his death in 2000. Through a lifetime of active research, he contributed immeasurably to the area of survey design, sampling, and methodology. He was actively involved in providing guidance to the U.S. Census Bureau, and he served as deputy director and research professor of the Survey Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois.

Brian Wansink (Ph.D. Stanford University, 1990) is the Julian Simon Research Scholar and professor of marketing, of nutritional science, of advertising, and of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and is an adjunct research professor at Cornell University and at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He directs the Food and Brand Lab, which focuses on psychology related to food choice and consumption (www.FoodPsychology.com). Prior to moving to Illinois, he was a marketing professor at Dartmouth College and at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He coauthored Consumer Panels with Seymour Sudman.

Part OneStrategies for Asking Questions