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9. The advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires

The advantages of questionnaires

  1. Practical
  2. Large amounts of information can be collected from a large number of people in a short period of time and in a relatively cost effective way
  3. Can be carried out by the researcher or by any number of people with limited affect to its validity and reliability
  4. The results of the questionnaires can usually be quickly and easily quantified by either a researcher or through the use of a software package
  5. Can be analysed more 'scientifically' and objectively than other forms of research
  6. When data has been quantified, it can be used to compare and contrast other research and may be used to measure change
  7. Positivists believe that quantitative data can be used to create new theories and / or test existing hypotheses

The disadvantages of questionnaires

  1. Is argued to be inadequate to understand some forms of information - i.e. changes of emotions, behaviour, feelings etc.
  2. Phenomenologists state that quantitative research is simply an artificial creation by the researcher, as it is asking only a limited amount of information without explanation
  3. Lacks validity
  4. There is no way to tell how truthful a respondent is being
  5. There is no way of telling how much thought a respondent has put in
  6. The respondent may be forgetful or not thinking within the full context of the situation
  7. People may read differently into each question and therefore reply based on their own interpretation of the question - i.e. what is 'good' to someone may be 'poor' to someone else, therefore there is a level of subjectivity that is not acknowledged
  8. There is a level of researcher imposition, meaning that when developing the questionnaire, the researcher is making their own decisions and assumptions as to what is and is not important...therefore they may be missing something that is of importance

The process of coding in the case of open ended questions opens a great possibility of subjectivity by the researcher


K. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), reprinted (2004) by Routledge, Taylor & Francis

S. Ackroyd and J. A. Hughes, Data Collection in Context (1981) Longman