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Guidelines for Designing, Administrating and Analysing the Survey Method in Prisons

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Introduction

Guidelines for Designing, Administrating and Analysing the Survey Method in Prisons What is the Survey Method? The survey method is a research technique that is used to gather certain information from a selected amount of people, through the methods of questionnaires and interviews. The survey method is very useful as it can be used to obtain factual information such as people's levels of knowledge, their beliefs, their attitudes and their preferences. It can also be used to ask people about difficult issues and personal subjects that could not be obtained through other research methods such as experiments or observations. Why use the Survey Method in Prisons? The survey method is ideal to use in the prison environment at it wont take up that much time, resources or time training staff. You can use the survey method with offenders to get a better understanding of their lives in prison and their lives before being sentenced to prison. There are a number of topics that you could use as the aim of your survey method, for example you could ask the offenders; * The types of offences they have committed in their lives including those that they where not caught for doing and those they received sentences for. * Their overall opinions of the prison including their relationships with the other prisoners and prison guards, the cleanliness of the prison and the atmosphere of the prison. * Their health habits and their wellbeing at the prison such as how easy is it for them to see a health profession and what type of service do they receive, their health habits and if they are taking part in any substance abuse. ...read more.

Middle

This could be more of a problem is a prison as there may be certain prisoners that have a following of other prisoners and have a respectable reputation, so they may answer the questions in a way to keep this respect. This could make the results you obtain less valid. The design of your questionnaire is an important factor to think about. The questionnaire should be laid out attractively, it shouldn't looked cramped with tiny font instead the questions should be spread out across the pages using the space you have wisely. If the questionnaire looks intimidating then your respondents may be put off before they start answering the questions. The order you put your questions in need to be in a logical order, leading from one question to the other and not jumping from topic to topic, and that all the questions covering one particular subject are placed together. The best way to present your questions is to start with general questions that can establish a general overview of the respondent's opinions or preferences, and then gradually work down to the specifics of the particular subjects. Easier questions should be presented at the beginning with the harder ones following, this is to help the respondents feel at ease early on and help you receive more in-depth replies to the trickier questions later on. There are certain types of questions that you can include in your questionnaire, there are; * Behavioural Questions which prompt the respondents to reveal what they have done in the past. You can use these types of questions to find out about any previous crimes that the prisoners committed but not convicted for, the type of people they had as they peers or how they behave inside the prison. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although an interview can be very valid there are still some issues that can make it less valid due to certain types of bias. There is interview bias, which is where the interviewer influences the interviewee's answers either by phrasing the questions in a certain manner or just by simply being an interviewer as some people like to look interesting and want to please the interviewer and may then give the replies that they feel the interviewer is hoping for. Other ways that the interviewer could influence the respondent could be the manner and tone of speech, their ethnic origin, their sex or their personal habits. Lying is a problem for most research methods as they respondent may feel they have nothing to gain from telling the truth or may have simply forgotten and could be relying of broken memories or they could have simply not understood the question completely. This can be an issue if the subject you're asking about is a sensitive issue, but with face-to-face interviews the interviewer may be able to tell if the respondent is lying as the main indicator is through the respondent's facial features and body language. The interviewer could then clarify what they are asking or rephrase the question to try and obtain the truth. Interviews are time-consuming and can be costly, as you are using someone to perform the interview individually to each of your sample. You may also need to provide a prison guard to supervise the interviews encase a sensitive issue is reached and the prisoner may react in a hostile or violent way. You also have to rely on your interviewers to be honest when recording the responses and that they are not giving you the answers they believe you are looking for. ...read more.

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