Research Methods

Barney Beins

Advantages and Disadvantages to Survey Formats


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Written Questionnaires

Advantages Disadvantages
Low cost Potentially low quality of data (low response rate, sometimes questionabel accuracy, incomplete responses)
Little chance of interviewer bias Requirement that the instrument be short
Less pressure on interviewee for a fast response No control over order of answering questions
Greater feeling of anonymity No information about the context of answering
  No way to help people who misunderstand questions

Personal Interviews

Advantages Disadvantages
Interviewer can correct misunderstandings Possible interviewer effects
Interviewer can probe inadequate answers High cost
Interviewer can establish rapport with the interviewee  
High data quality (high response rate, interviewee is put at ease, longer interviews are possible)  

Telephone Interviews

Advantages Disadvantages
High response rate Possible interviewer effects
Longer interviews are possible No visual aids are possible
Cheap and quick data collection Difficulty in asking complex questions (interviewer cannot use body language for cues that the interviewee does not understand a question)
Interviewing can be supervised  
Data collection can be computerized  
PLUS all the advantages of personal interviews  

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(Updated September 26, 2003)