Each of these methods can be used to supplement your research.
They are not required for students in the 5-week class; however, if any seems interesting, please pursue it!
Topics to be covered
*adapted from class notes on The Bedford Researcher’s resources
Whether on the phone or face-to-face, interviews can be challenging.
Know your questions, but don’t feel constrained by them. Use them as a guide, but be prepared to ask secondary questions like in a normal conversation.
Know when to curb a conversation when it hits a dead end.
How to judge quality
Choose the right subjects!
Paper on how 18-21 year olds vote: choose 18-21 subjects
Any others would prove useless for paper
Start by asking the basic questions: name, age, job, etc. These will prove helpful when you summarize the experience.
The hard part is deciding whether the info you received is good… or not so good…
GL : Are you planning to vote in the next presidential election?
TC : Umm, I ’ m not really sure. It depends?
GL : Ok. Can you tell me what it depends on?
TC : My girlfriend would get angry if I told her I ’ m not going to vote. She thinks it ’ s really important, but I don ’ t, so I ’ m avoiding an argument with her.
GL : Why do you think she ’ d get so mad?
TC : Because she ’ s really involved in politics, in what ’ s going on. She thinks everyone can make a difference.
GL : And you don’t think everyone can make a difference?
TC : No, not really. That ’ s the kind of stuff we ’ re supposed to believe in, but I really don ’ t buy it. It ’ s all a big scam, politics.
Steer your subject…
In the prior example, the discussion veered off from the main idea.
The interviewer (GL) was able to work with the subject’s (TC’s) responses and prod his way to some good materials.
Remember, sometimes your subject may be nervous. Being calm and understanding will help.
Once the talk is over…
Look over your notes and pull out particularly strong quotes that you could use in your paper.
Look for connections between interview subjects
Repeated ideas are often the best ideas-- consensus.
What if you’re still not sure how to treat or trust your responses?
Does the interviewee provide evidence to support or corroborate claims? Does the information from your source agree with published accounts in print or Internet sources? If not, can you think of a good reason why this would be so?
Is any of your evidence hearsay, one person telling you the thoughts of another or telling you about comments or actions that he or she hasn’t witnessed? If so, can you support or discount your source’s view by comparing it with other evidence?
If an interviewee or questionnaire respondent has told you about past events, has time possibly distorted his or her memory?
[if applicable] are my subjects from diverse enough backgrounds to be “representative”?
Evaluate the speaker
Consider as well whether the person who answered the questions was as qualified and knowledgeable as you expected, and whether he or she seems biased or prejudiced.
If so, is this bias or prejudice so strong that you have to discount some of the information?
Just because the source has a strong bias doesn ’ t mean that everything he or she has said is invalid.
However, you will be better prepared to fend off attacks from those who want to challenge your argument if you recognize such biases.
On a similar note…
Comprehensiveness refers to the extent to which a source provides a complete and balanced view of a topic.
As you evaluate your interview, consider whether your questions and responses were appropriately comprehensive.
Did you ask too much or too little?
Were your source ’ s responses specific or general enough?
Have you obtained permission to use information from the person you ’ ve interviewed?
Have you asked them whether you can use their names in your project document or whether they would prefer that you protect their confidentiality?
If not, are you able to get in touch with that person to ask for permission?
Citations for Interviews
Interviewee’s name. (date of interview). Interview Type.
Smith, A. (10 June 2007). Personal Interview.
Jones, J. (5 Sept. 2007). Telephone Interview.
Regly, C. (10 Oct. 2007). Interviewed via Second Life Instant Messaging.
Surveys have a lot in common with interviews in the sense that often the questions are the same
One pitfall is that you are limited in terms of conversation
One perk is that it is easy to distribute a lot of surveys to larger groups, whereas interviews take time.
How to design a good survey
Good survey design requires some thought and effort. When planning a survey, remember the following guidelines.
1. Determine when you will need to report the data to be collected. Don’t wait until the last minute!
2. Identify the questions you want the data to answer. What is it you want to know from conducting the survey? Identify the overall reasons for conducting the survey.
Use your research question as a base. Try and think of as many questions as possible that address your question.
3. Identify the data you need to answer those questions.
Do you need numerical data, opinions, comparisons based on some criteria, etc.?
The data you need will form the foundation of the survey form.
4. Identify the people from whom you will gather the data.
Which groups of people will provide you the most useful data?
Surveying students to determine their satisfaction with job placement services, for example, is useful only if the students you survey have used the services of the job placement office.
Also, if your questions require data from people who meet specific characteristics, this is the step in which you identify those characteristics (students with 0-9 hours, students with 10-15 hours, students majoring in X, etc.).
5. Design the methodology for conducting the survey.
This is the step where you decide the procedures for conducting the survey:
how many people you will survey,
how you will survey them (by phone, in class, a mailed form, etc.),
how you will distribute and collect survey forms,
make follow-up contacts if needed, etc.
6. Design and produce the survey form.
Creating a useful survey form, a topic about which many books have been written, requires careful thought and skillful application of some basic rules.
Keep in mind that a survey form should be as brief as possible (aim for no more than one side of a single page at most for your main questions),
… and should create as little frustration as possible to increase the likelihood that it will be completed and returned.
The aim of a good survey form is to help the people you are surveying give you the information you need in a form that is useful.
Include only those questions which are important to the current study. Don't ask for things like "age" if it is not pertinent to answering your outcomes question.
Survey form tips
Make the questions specific; avoid vague qualifiers and abstract terms.
Terms like "usually", "most", and "now" are full of ambiguity.
Instead, use "each day/week/semester", "4 of 5 times", or "since you completed the class".
Start with easier questions and move to more difficult or boring ones.
The first questions should be chosen with care. They should "hook" the reader into answering the survey questions.
Ask questions in a logical order.
Avoid "contingency" questions; those where you check "yes" to one question, then go to another set of questions elsewhere. They are confusing and tend to lower the number of completed survey forms returned.
Construct response categories carefully.
Response categories must allow for all possible responses yet not be too long.
If you are asking students how much time they spend studying, you would want to include "never" as well as "X hours every day" but you would not want to list all the number of hours in a day. You would provide categories of hours within the day, such as "1-3 hours per day", "4-6 hours per day", etc.
Clarity is key…
Provide clear and sufficient directions, including
the reason for the survey,
whether responses are to be anonymous or confidential,
how the respondent is to complete the survey form,
and what to do with it when it has been completed.
Conduct the survey, analyze the data, and report the results.
The final task of conducting a survey is to communicate the findings clearly and accurately.
To orient the reader to your report, include the purpose of the study and how the survey was conducted (the methodology used).
Provide a summary of your results, including any tables or charts displaying data.
And finally, draw your conclusions and make recommendations based on your findings.
Discard any illogical/nonsense results
Draw conclusions based on serious responses.
Even if you don’t personally agree with them ;-)
Controversial findings can serve as great counterarguments
Your name as author. (date results compiled). Survey title.
Dunley, K. (12 Dec. 2007). Literature Survey.
James, R. (5 May 2007). Survey of iTunes Users.
Critical, on-site viewing.
A project on learning disabilities could view a class that targets such children
A how-to paper writer might observe someone else at work to gain a different insight
A project on body modification might get permission to watch an artist at work
A project on consumerism might observe groups at the mall to count numbers of who’s shopping where.
Note the following:
Where you observed – specifically
the times and dates of your observation work (all of them- specific)
Details of any conversations with people observed (if applicable)
Name of observed. (Dates). Observation type. Location.
Braziller, A. (5 March 2005). English Class Observation. Red Rocks Community College.