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Chapter 9

Descriptive Research

Overview of Descriptive Research


Focused towards the present
Gathering information and describing the current
situation
May or may not involve hypothesis testing

Answers the question What is?


Many types of research fall within this
classification

Types of Descriptive Research


Survey
Developmental
Longitudinal approach
Cross-sectional approach

Case Study
Correlational
Normative
Observational (a.k.a. qualitative)
Action
Causal-comparative (a.k.a. ex post facto)

Survey Research Methodology


Survey research is the most common type of
descriptive research
Involves questioning techniques for data
collection
Survey methodology consists of asking questions of a
(supposedly) representative sample of the desired
population at a single point in time. The persons of
whom the questions are asked are called survey
respondents
The most difficult part of conducting a survey is
writing the questions

Census
A survey which obtains responses from the
entire population is called a census

General Survey
Data Collection Methods
Interviews
Questionnaires

Interview Methods
Phone interview
Common in marketing research
Not used much in HHP

Personal interview
Applicable if the sample is small and accessible
Structured, semi-structured, or unstructured interview
Recording of information

Focus group interview


Interview groups of people
Requires skilled facilitator

An interview schedule or guide contains the questions to


be read to the respondent during an interview as well as
a place for recording the answers

Questionnaires
A questionnaire is a self-report instrument that is
generally mailed or handed to the respondent to
complete with no help from the researcher
Administered questionnaire
Respondents are directly given the questionnaire

Distributed questionnaire
Questionnaire is mailed or electronically delivered

Majority of survey research in HHP uses a


questionnaire as data-collection technique

Questionnaire Development
Composing Questions each question should
have three important attributes: focus, brevity,
and simplicity
The questions should focus directly on the issue or
topic relevant to the information needs of the study
They should be as short or brief as possible while still
conveying the meaning
The questions should be expressed as simply and
clearly as they can be

Questionnaire Development
Questions should be worded so they are not
ambiguous, misleading, or biased
Double-barreled questions should be avoided
Use simple sentences where possible and
complex sentences only when essential
Level of wording (vocabulary) should be
appropriate for the intended respondents

Questionnaire Format
Organization of Questionnaire
appearance and layout is important
length (no. of questions) is a major factor
in general, longer questionnaires have a poorer return
rate

place easy to answer questions first


sensitive questions should be near the end
items should be placed in a logical order
demographic information
recommend placing demographic questions at end

Response Format
Closed-ended (structured)

standard answers provided


easy to code and score
facilitates answering sensitive questions
may make for a long questionnaire
generally considered easy for respondent

Open-ended (unstructured)

respondent may answer as they choose


exploratory; allows detailed response
preferable for complex questions
may be difficult to code and score
requires more time and effort of respondent

Appropriateness of Questionnaire
Validity and reliability of the questionnaire should
be determined before it is administered
Use of a pilot study
Revise questionnaire as needed

Questionnaire Distribution
Controlling costs
bulk mail rates
length of questionnaire (i.e., weight of mailing)

High return rate

self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE)


postage-paid, business reply envelopes
good mailing list
follow-up strategy

Cover letter
Appropriate timing of mailing

Cover Letter Guidelines


All mailed surveys should include a cover letter
explaining the following:

who is conducting the survey


what is the purpose of the survey
why it is important for the respondent to answer
inducements for the respondent, if any
how is the confidentiality of the respondent being
protected
basic instructions for completing and returning the
questionnaire

Cover Letter Guidelines 2


Personalize cover letter if possible (mail merge)
this has been shown to increase the return rate

Corporate or institutional letterhead and printed


envelopes should be used for the cover letter
and mailing envelopes

Mailing Guidelines
The typical survey questionnaire should be
mailed in a standard number 10 business
envelope
first class postage stamps on the mailing envelope will
result in the highest return rate
bulk mail obtains the lowest return rate, is slower, but is
less expensive, and can be over 3 ounces without extra
postage . . . easily justified for large mailings

Return Mail Guidelines


The self-addressed return envelope should be
smaller than the mailing envelope so that it can
be inserted in the mailing without folding
usually a no. 9 size business envelope
return postage should be provided
affixing 1st class postage stamp results in the highest
return rate
a postage paid business-reply return envelope is more
economical and is an acceptable alternative