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Examine the problems some sociologists find when using postal questionnaires in their research.

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Introduction

Examine the problems some sociologists find when using postal questionnaires in their research. Sociologists face various problems when postal questionnaires are used in their research. These problems centre on the nature of questionnaires, which can be defined as structured documents containing questions that provide the data a sociologist requires to draw conclusions from a study. These problems can be attributed to the researcher (for example, poorly worded questions) or the answerer (dishonest/incomplete responses etc.). Postal questionnaires are typically employed by Positivists in a macro sociological investigation. Postal questionnaires usually return a lot of results. Positivists favour this means of data collection because it can be easily distributed to thousands of people. The problem of low response rates is negated by the number of questionnaires a sociologist can send out: once written, the documents can be easily delivered to a multitude of addresses, and therefore provide the researcher with a considerable amount of data. ...read more.

Middle

They claim that questionnaires are usually posted to gather information on a relatively uncontroversial topic, and that results are compared to information collected via other means of research. They recognise advantages of postal questionnaires over other approaches, too. Positivists claim that postal questionnaires remove the intimidating aspect of interviews and participant observation by guaranteeing the respondent anonymity; as a result, answers might be more truthful, and, in particular, sociologists can ask personal or sensitive questions which would otherwise be inappropriate or tarnished by false answers from embarrassed or unsettled participants. Other factors determining the usefulness and accuracy of postal questionnaires include time, funding and response rates. Questionnaires are relatively cheap and easily distributed; however, sociologists must secure funding and find time to put together a well-structured, objective and clear document. Poorly constructed postal questionnaires could be off putting to possible answerers, and the inclusion of leading questions could bring into question the legitimacy of ...read more.

Conclusion

In this sense, postal questionnaires are ideal for positivists focusing on the 'bigger picture'. In conclusion, I believe postal questionnaires are a useful means of collecting information. They are cheap and, potentially, can return a large number of results over a short period of time. However, the quality of results depends almost entirely on the structure and content of the questionnaire, and the data often provides researchers with undetailed conclusions lacking any real depth or validity. In my opinion, the extent to which Presults are distorted by deliberately misleading or inadvertently inaccurate/poorly formed answers or opinions depends largely on the subjects of the study, and, as such, each questionnaire is specific to the individuals whom receive and return the questionnaire. Overall, I think postal questionnaires offer a means of data collection which is, generally, effective in gathering enough information to quickly determine the basic nature of an issue or topic, usually highlighting the most basic and fundamental patterns in society, which offer a sturdy structure or foundation for further investigation. ...read more.

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