Assess the strengths and weaknesses of questionnaires, as a research method

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Ayshe Caluda

Assess the strengths and weaknesses of questionnaires, as a research method

Questionnaires are the most commonly used form of collecting data, as they are useful for gathering large quantities of basic educational information quickly and cheaply. They can be sent to people at home, completed then returned by post, emailed to you online or completed on the spot. For example, in a shopping centre, someone may approach you with a clip board and ask you a set of questions to answer there and then. The people completing the questionnaires are known as respondents, who are asked to provide answers to pre-set questions.

Questionnaires can fit into two types of categories; structured or semi-structured questionnaires. A structured questionnaire has a fixed response. This means that there is either a box to tick or the answer is either yes or no. These types of questionnaires are liked by positivists. Positivists believe that society is made up of ‘social facts’ that can be studied scientifically to discover laws of cause and effect. They prefer this type of questionnaire as it gives you quantitative data (data in statistical or numerical form). This type of data makes it quick and easy to analyse the responses. On the other hand, a semi-structured questionnaire also includes yes and no answers, however, it may also ask why. This will make the responses become qualitative data. This type of data is preferred by the feminists and interpretivists as they like data that reveals people’s feelings and provides in-depth information about a social issue. Feminists may find this data more useful to use as they believe women are often confined to a privatised domestic sphere, so they are more likely to welcome the opportunity to talk to someone sympathetically, rather than just answer yes or no. In addition, feminists may also prefer this method as they are used to being questioned by doctors, midwives and others. Therefore, questionnaires can be seen as more advantageous to positivists (who favour questionnaires as they believe they are reliable and objective), than to feminists and interpretivists, who claim they lack validity, as they as inflexible and do not give a true account of the respondent’s meanings.

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Questionnaires have practical, theoretical and ethical advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, considering the practical issues; questionnaires are considered generally to be a quick and cheap way of gathering data. Also, there is no need to train people on how to analyse and collect the data. However, there are also many disadvantages for practical issues. For example, questionnaires are considered to be generally quick, although, in some situations they take long to design, apply and analyse. There is also the trouble of not knowing if they person the questionnaire was sent to, received the questionnaire and actually completed it themselves. Furthermore, the respondent ...

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