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Overview

Questionnaires consist of a list of written questions. It is commonly used by sociologists for gathering opinions from respondents. It normally takes the form of postal questionnaires (respondents answer the questions in private and send it back to the researcher) or researcher-administered questionnaires (respondents answer the questions verbally in the presence of the researcher). The questions can be either open-ended or closed-ended.

Closed-ended questions

Yes-or-no questions like 'Do you enjoy studying Sociology?'. Also called pre-coded questions as sociologists code the answers for data analysis. For example, Yes[1], No[2], Don't Know[3]. This type of questions are quick and easy to code (quantify) and interpret.

Open-ended questions

Questions like 'What areas of Sociology are you most interested in?'. Respondents have to produce their own response without given options. This type of questions give respondents the freedom to provide explanations and further details.

Strengths

  • The research can be easily replicated, thus results in highly replicable data.
  • Respondents remain anonymous
  • No interviewer effect (postal)
  • Easy to conduct even the number of respondents is very large. Possible to get a more representative sample and make generalisations

Limitations

  • Low response rate (postal)
  • Difficult to examine complex issues and opinions in depth
  • Poorly phrased questions and unclear definitions might cause ambiguity
  • Leading questions might introduce bias