WJEC Eduqas GCSE Sociology sample

243 How useful are questionnaires in social research? There are problems with the use of questionnaires, however. Respondents might interpret questions in different ways: the meanings of questions might be different for different people. Closed questions might not allow respondents to explain what they mean, making questionnaires low in validity This means the questions might not get at the truth of what is happening or what people think. Open questions are a way of increasing the validity of questionnaires, but are not so easy to use for generating statistics. In addition, responses to open questions might be difficult to classify, group and compare. Evaluation Questionnaires have the advantage of being cheap, quick and often very useful for creating statistics. This makes them high in reliability and very useful to sociologists. It is also easy for people completing them to remain anonymous. This means that identities can be kept secret and therefore people might be more likely to answer sensitive questions. Despite this, it is difficult to be sure about the honesty of respondents in questionnaires. This can make them low in validity. The different meanings attached to questions by respondents also adds to this. Low response rates might also mean that samples for questionnaires are not representative . There are also other pitfalls with questionnaires. Advice about questionnaires Example The following advice should help when writing a questionnaire. Questionnaires should avoid loaded or leading questions. For instance, asking people where they enjoy drinking alcohol is a loaded question which does not allow an answer for people who do not enjoy drinking alcohol. Clear and uncomplicated language that can be understood by all respondents should always be used. Another common mistake is the use of double-barrelled questions which have two parts to them and are confusing for respondents. A further problem is when a questionnaire forces people into giving an absolute answer of yes or no. These mistakes will all damage the validity of responses. Some questionnaires use scales or multiple-choice tick boxes. This might increase validity, but could force people into over-simplistic choices. SUMMARY Questionnaires are a very useful research tool for sociologists. They allow the collection of reliable data on a large scale at low cost. However, care needs to be taken in the design of questions and the way that they are distributed. SPOTLIGHT: Create a revision poster for questionnaires. Include advantages, disadvantages and a list of things to consider when designing questionnaires. Put these into practice by designing a set of ten questions to use in class. METHODS Taking it further Investigate a survey website or look for classic examples of misleading questions in surveys on the internet.