Postal Questionnaires and their use in Sociological Research

Els Pg
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A Levels Sociology Mind Map on Postal Questionnaires and their use in Sociological Research, created by Els Pg on 04/07/2014.

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Els Pg
Created by Els Pg over 5 years ago
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Postal Questionnaires and their use in Sociological Research
1 Postal questionnaires are one type of written questionnaires that can be used by sociologists. A sociologist will formulate a set of questions, and they will send the same set of questions to a large group of people, traditionally via post but it can be done on the internet.
1.1 There are two types of questions that can be asked: closed-ended and open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions have set responses, while open-ended questions allow for any answer.
1.1.1 Open- ended questions are more favoured by interpretivist sociologists as they give more reliable data. HOWEVER, they are more difficult to quantify, and follow-up questions can't be asked .
1.1.2 Closed questions are easier to quantify and are more preferred by positivists. However, closed questions can sacrifice validity for reliability.
2.1 Postal questionnaires are usually more favoured by POSITIVIST sociologists than they are by INTERPRETIVISTS.
2.1.1 Postal questionnaires can be a very RELIABLE way of collecting data as the same questions are asked each time. It is therefore easy to see if differences in responses are due to differences in the research population. POSITIVISTS favor this ability to establish cause-and-effect relationships. Questionnaires can also be representative due to the ability to reach many people. HOWEVER, the return rate of postal questionnaires can be very low. Hite: 4.5% of 100,000 questionnaires were returned.
2.1.2 They are not very good ways of collecting VALID data, for many reasons. People may forget, not know, or lie about their responses (e.g. the Hawthorne Effect). Likewise, they may not understand the question. Questionnaires only give a snapshot in time, and it's difficult to find out about people's REASONS and contributing factors.
3.1.1 It can be difficult to tell if the intended person got their questionnaire, and if a respondent is the person to whom it was originally addressed.
3.1.2 Though postal questionnaires can be cheap compared to some other types of research, to increase the response rate it may be necessary to offer an incentive, such as an entry into a prize draw. This can raise the cost.
3.2.1 It may be cheaper to send out many thousands of postal questionnaires than it would be to train a few researchers to conduct in-depth interviews, or to pay people to conduct surveys on the street.
4.1 Postal questionnaires come with very few ethical problems, especially due to the fact that they have less of an effect on people's lives as other methods such as participant observation or experiments. However, sociologists still need to make moral considerations.
4.1.1 Researchers must naturally always get a respondent's informed consent, and with postal questionnaires this is easy because if people don't want to take part, they don't have to: questions are made optional, and so is sending the questionnaire back.
4.1.2 Some people argue there are problems when it comes to subject matter. For example, some questions or subjects may be deemed as intrusive, or not age appropriate: an example may be questions about people's sex lives.

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