The joy of questionnaires
WANTED: Research participants aged between 18-25, willing to undertake a 6-10 minute interview.
Free Pizza for those who turn up. No? How about a $50 Coles voucher? Okay, now we’re talking!
As someone who’s super enthusiastic about research and behavioural understanding for the good of society, I’ve certainly completed my fair share of questionnaires. Who am I kidding, I’d never fill one out unless I got something in return – something tangible, say a voucher, a free goodie bag or the chance to win big?
But as we devised our own questionnaire in class and conducted a short interview, I really appreciated the complexity behind the whole process.
Read on and appreciate.
We formulated three interview questions to test on our peers, and it was surprising to see the range of potential answers and subjective understandings in response.
- Do you think illegally downloading music is wrong?
We had ‘sometimes’ as an option, however from a general raise of hands it was clear that a binary choice was sufficient.
- When do you think it is okay to illegally download music?
Originally this question was left open ended. However, if the data were to be effectively analysed, we found it was best to provide a range of options for the participants to choose from.
They included options such as;
- When cost of purchase is too expensive.
- When the music is unavailable in your country.
- When you can’t purchase a particular version/remix.
- When you have supported the artist in other ways (concert, merchandise).
- All the time.
Next was deciding whether or not to implement a rating scale, ranking or checklist. There was a possibility of multiple responses, but it was important to determine what response would be most logical and natural.
For statistical reasons, taking into account the possibility for multiple answers (aside from polar opposites of ‘never’ and ‘all the time’), we thought a rating scale for each option would be best:
|Circumstance||Never||Sometimes||Most of the time||All the time|
|When cost is too expensive|
|When the music is unavailable|
|When you can’t purchase a particular version|
|When you have supported the artist in other ways|
The next issue involved the legalities of ‘admitting to crime’. As researchers, we don’t actually want to know if you illegally download music, we just want the hypothetical. And so the question was changed to “When do you think it is okay for people to illegally download music?” Yes, let’s stick with ‘other people’ and no one gets hurt.
The third question was raised through discussion as the class felt it was necessary.
- Under what circumstances do you think people would be willing to pay for music?
- When you can’t download it for free.
- When you really like the band/song.
- When you are buying it as a gift.
- If it is more convenient.
To keep it simple, we narrowed the options down to four and added ‘other’ as an alternative. ‘Other’ makes a great gateway to focus group discussions. We also thought it was best that participants choose the top three responses for simplicity rather than rank or rate.
Overall, it was a long winding process that involved lots of tweaks and changes. And although questionnaires may take a minute of my time to complete, they certainly don’t take a minute to make.