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Survey tip 10: Define unclear terms!

Terms are unclear if they are not understood at all by respondents or not understood by all respondents in the same way. The problem of unclear terms is similar to the problem of simple terms in rule 1and the problem of the availability of information in rule 6. Basically there is only one solution: the strategy is not to simplify the question (sometimes it just isn’t possible) or to adapt the question to the target group (this would make the term unclear), but rather to define the unclear term. Let’s look at the following question:

"At what age do you think the andropause begins for men?"

There would be no problem with the question if we were to direct it at a random sample of andrologists (medical specialists for the treatment of male sexual diseases). For everyone else the term andropause would have to be explained. This can be done, according to the random sample, for example, by comparing it to the menopause or even more generally:

"The Andropause is a development in the ageing process of men, which is comparable to the menopause in women. What do you think...".

Or even more clearly:

"The term andropause describes the process of hormonal changes to men, which can affect their emotions and sex life. It is comparable to the female menopausal process, also known as the change. What do you think...". This example ends our short introduction to the problems of creating survey questions. As we said at the beginning, general rules can be extremely useful for the development of a questionnaire, but they must always be adapted to the specific situation of a specific survey and the specific questionnaire. So pay attention to the “10 rules of formulating questions" when developing your questionnaire questions, but view them critically when asking yourself if your specific questions really are “good”.
Ein Arbeitsbuch
Aus der Reihe 'Studienskripten zur Soziologie' im VS Verlag
4. erw. Aufl. 2014. 203 S.
Autor: Rolf Porst
ISBN: 978-3658021177
Preis: 14,99 Euro
10 survey tips

Formulation of questions
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Survey tip 10
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Last updated: 19.07.2024