Oliver Goldsmith artfully articulated – “Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies.” However, nature reveals, time and again, that truth shall be revealed when it is tested with the right questions.
With one more of our RM sessions passing under the bridge, the importance of asking the right question, got reinforced – a food for thought, with which Ursula Le Guin tried to guide our inquisitive nature in our youthful days, in one of her science fiction; writing “There are no right answers to the wrong questions”.
In our Business Communication lessons, we are taught, to have an effective communication, it is important to
- Know one-self
- Know the other party
- Know the context
In terms of research, these three principles can be made analogous to:
- Know the key parameters to understand the AS-IS
- Know the Target Audience (Sample)
- Know the Aim of the survey
The centre to any questionnaire is the aim of the survey. Fulfilling these aims should then drive the design of the questionnaire and help select questions that are relevant, concise and efficient.
Most researchers make the mistake of asking too many questions. This often arises from an incomplete analysis of how to meet the survey aims. The greatest enemy in survey research is poor response rate. Clear and concise questionnaires can also help get the best response.
With the right questions in the questionnaire, it is equally important to present it to the respondent. The significances of presenting the questionnaire in different styles of Surveys are:
Structured Interview Schedules: These are most applicable in Social Surveys. The interviews are closed, pre-ordered or fixed choice questions. The schedule is standardized to minimize variations between interviews. Although, it involves an interviewer, the structured format, Reduces error due to interviewer variability, hence leaves behind differences in responses due to “true variations” rather than the interviewer ability. It also benefits in the Processing-of-Data step of research. The interview can be Computer Aided (CAPI) or Telephonic (CATI) in nature. The drawbacks of such a technique of deploying the research instrument is that in this process, there are higher possibilities of receiving socially correct answers, rather than the correct answer to the questions.
Self-Administered Questionnaires: These are comparatively shorter. The absence of Interviewer contact cannot be leveraged in this case. The major disadvantages of such process include, researchers miss the opportunity of probing and prompting. Also the respondent gets aware of the fact that that the respondents can plan
We feel the quality of research depends on the questions one put up. Question to the AS-IS, to the hypothesis or on a micro level to the respondent. Questioning has been the seed to knowledge, innovation and progress. As the French Enlightenment writer Voltaire once quoted: “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers” – budding researchers would want to be known for the questions put across by them.