Week 6: Methodology

May 05, 2022

I am using a survey to answer my research question. The two relevant strengths of an online questionnaire to gather data are large distribution and honesty. Honesty in particular is a benefit for me as people often want to give a socially acceptable answer, which would massively skew my data. By providing them anonymity through the internet I am able to gain more honest answers.

Surveys also have many disadvantages. Two in particular must be overcome in order for me to get accurate results, misinterpretation and low return rate. In terms of misinterpretation, I have dealt with that by making all relevant questions multiple choice, as well as putting my email at the top. By putting my email at the top, I can be contacted with any questions or such to clear up any confusion. In terms of my questions, I have made all but two of them multiple choice. By doing so I don’t allow for such confusion as they will see the possible answer which will help them derive what the question means. The three exceptions are “Who’s your favorite teacher?”, “If you align with a third party, please identify it here:”, and “What is your major/graduate program?” Where the first more serves the purpose of allowing my participants to get more comfortable with the survey, and the second is gathering specific demographic information, the third is incredibly specific and leaves little room for interpretation. While I may be able to mitigate misinterpretation through my questionnaire, I will have to deal with low return rates via action; I hope to do this through the “snowball method” of data collection. Because of this method I could get a return rate greater than 100% but, I predict that each send out will get me no more than 20 data points with diminishing returns with each email sent out. All in all this method matches what I need from a methodology so perfectly, it is nigh impossible to use a different method to better achieve my data.

This method entails me reaching out to a few individuals and then asking them to reach out to their friends and peers and their friends and peers etc. This both solves for low return rate, as people are far more likely to take online surveys if asked by their friends, and contributes to the large output that digital distribution is known for. This is reliant on my knowing someone to use as a base for the snowball, and I know a few people at the observed schools. Worst case scenario, if my connections fail to get back to me I can connect with other students whether it be through social media or email correspondence. 

My method of choice does come with an additional flaw though. If I’m asking people through their peers, then I will likely get demographically similar participants. While this isn’t as large a problem as it can be as I measure correlation in a divisive demographic category, if I get to people who are of a certain opinion, then they will accurately reflect the data of those people. In addition, by asking some non-invasive demographic questions like major and political party, I will be able to weight the data based on school or general demographics, meaning I will value their correlation more, treating them as if they were more people since that opinion was under-represented. Through my survey, I am able to gather large quantities of data, and not worry about the many flaws that plague most surveys. 


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