This blog will look into making a survey for a dissertation. Many people choose to write dissertation questionnaires, and then get into problems. This blog should help students avoid those issues. A Dissertation Questionnaire is one type of research method. Dissertation Questionnaires can be combined with case studies, and/or interviews in your research. Writing a dissertation questionnaire has important ethical considerations.
The first consideration is who will be responding to the questionnaire. If you cannot guarantee an appropriate number of responses, think seriously about an alternative research method. Here are some things to consider regarding the questionnaire design:
- Collect Basic Data first. Some quantitative information about the participant will be important. One thing required is to establish the participants as knowledgeable about the topic. Collecting information about age, experience, and qualifications can help establish the authority of the respondent. This will probably make your research methodology mixed methods – both quantitative and qualitative data collected.
- Ask questions which have arisen from the literature review research. There should be a reason for asking every question.
- Avoid ‘Leading’ questions. Questions such as “Do you agree with….” are leading to a “Yes” response.
- Avoid ‘Closed’ questions. Questions that can be answered Yes/No are to be avoided. They at least need to be supplemented with questions that elicit better information.
- Ensure that there is an ‘Other’ Option. Don’t assume that you know all of the potential answers. Allow the respondent (expert) to tell you. This is where you discover qualitative information.
- Make sure that your categories are correct. I often see 0-5 years, 5-10 years, etc. (Which one do I choose for 5 years?)
- Use Plain Language – no jargon or acronyms.
Once designed the questionnaire needs to be approved by your supervisor. Then the other documents such as ‘participant information’, and ‘informed consent’ need to be created. All these documents need to be uploaded to the ethical system in use. It is poor research to collect any data before ethical approval is granted.
Questionnaire Collection Methods
Once written there are several other considerations.
- University approved collection methods must be used. For data security reasons some universities do not allow tools such as Google Forms or Survey Monkey.
- Data Storage. There are ethical issues about where you store the data during collection, and after collection throughout analysis and reporting.
- Consider who you would like to respond. Establish these people as ‘experts’ in your research methods chapter.
- Before release, pilot your questionnaire with some fellow students:
- Do they understand the questions? Do they interpret the questions as you intended?
- Is the questionnaire too long? (People will give up if it takes too long).
- Attempt to analyse the submissions from the pilot.
- Make changes if required and report these changes as part of the research methods chapter.
It is good practice to pilot the survey. Comment on the changes made as a result of the pilot. Perhaps there are some limitations from using a survey that you need to comment on later?
Questionnaire Writing Up
Once the data is collected, the results need to be written up. I am a firm believer of every chapter in the dissertation having a single purpose. Therefore I suggest:
- Results Chapter: State the results from each question in a tabular and/or graphical format.
- Analysis Chapter: Analyse each questions result, and perform inter-question analysis. There is more information on this in a previous blog.
- Save any discussion for the discussion chapter.
Imperfections in the questionnaire need to be reported. These can actually help the discussion chapter, and provide information for the recommendations and further work sections.
I have captured this information as a video clip.
Primary data collection via questionnaires is not better than analysing secondary data from case studies. However getting your dissertation questionnaires correct can be difficult.
Questionnaires require a lot of thought There are many questions that can arise from a supervisor at an oral examination on the use of questionnaires, and the presentation and analysis of the results.