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Type of Data Sought There are six main types of information or data that can be obtained from questions. They are discussed below. Factual Questions In these questions, factual information is required of the respondent rather than an opinion.

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Respondents could be asked about possession of items eg. Opinion or Motivational Questions These questions seek opinions 'Are you in favour of a capital gains tax? There are many problems associated with opinion questions. For instance: a person's attitude to a subject may not be fully developed or they may not have given it much thought; opinion questions are very sensitive to changes in wording; and it is impossible to check the validity of responses to opinion questions. Behavioural Questions These questions require information about the activity of the respondent or business e.

Behavioural questions need to be used with care because they often require difficult recall tasks on the part of the respondent. They should be restricted to topics respondents will remember easily or are likely to have records for, and cover a reasonable and specific time frame.

Hypothetical Questions The "What would you do if The problems with hypothetical questions are similar to opinion questions. You can never be certain how valid any answer to a hypothetical question is likely to be. They should only be used to refer to a hypothetical occurrence of a type of situation a respondent will be familiar with or have structure in place for.

An example of this is for testing questions e. They are usually left towards the end of a questionnaire unless they are necessary for filter questions questions which direct respondents to skip questions that do not apply to them. Knowledge Questions These questions test the respondent's knowledge about current issues etc. For example, 'Who is the Prime Minister? Several aspects of question design can introduce error, namely: Language Questions which employ complex or technical language or jargon can confuse or irritate respondents.

In the case of interviewer based surveys, respondents who do not understand the question may be unwilling to appear ignorant by asking the interviewer to explain the questions. The respondent may then either refuse to answer or give an inaccurate response. Technical language or jargon should only be used in cases where it is part of the normal language of the survey's target population.

An example of this case would be a survey of information technology specialists: the survey would need to use language that is 'jargon' to the survey designer, but appropriate for the respondent. A general principle to keep in mind is that the wording of questionnaire items should be specific, definitive, consistent, brief, simple and self-explanatory.

Ambiguity If ambiguous words or phrases are included in a question, the meaning may be interpreted differently by different people. This will introduce errors in the data since different respondents will be virtually answering different questions. For example, consider the question 'Has your standard of living decreased substantially because of a sharp increase in your monthly mortgage repayments?

A question may also seem straightforward, but allow for a variety of different kinds of answers.


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It is important to include the measurement unit you require wherever one applies, e. Double-Barrelled Questions Multiple Concepts in one Question These are apparently single questions which actually incorporate two different questions.

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For example: ' Do you intend to leave work and return to full-time study this year? When different parts of the question have different answers, or parts of the question are not relevant, respondents may be unsure how to answer. When attempting to interpret answers to such questions, it can be unclear to which part of the question the answer corresponds.

Leading Questions Error will be introduced if questions lead respondents towards a particular response. For example, the question 'How many days did you work last week?

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It implies that the person would have or should have been at work. Respondents may answer incorrectly to avoid telling the interviewer that they were not working. Unbalanced Questions Another form of leading questions are unbalanced questions. For example, 'Are you in favour of gun control?

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The question should be reworded to something like 'Do you favour gun control, or are you against gun control? The answer options of a question can also be unbalanced. For example, a respondent could be asked in a neutral way "Please rate your overall health" but required to select from the answers "Poor", "Good" and "Excellent". The quality of the data collected from recall questions is influenced by the importance of the event to the respondent and the length of time since the event took place. Respondents also tend to remember what should have been done rather than what was done. Subjects which are of greater importance or interest to respondents, or events which happen infrequently, will be remembered over longer periods and more accurately.

Where possible eg. Minimising the recall period also helps to reduce memory bias. A specific type of memory error is telescoping. This occurs if respondents report events as occurring either earlier or later than they actually occur, incorrectly bringing events into the reference period. This effect is alleviated somewhat by being very specific about when the reference period begins and ends, for example using "the week ending Saturday 1st September" rather than "last week".

Intrusive Sensitive Questions Questions on topics which respondents may see as embarrassing or highly sensitive can produce inaccurate answers. Respondents may refuse to provide information on personal issues such as health or income details.


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If respondents are required to answer questions with information that might seem socially undesirable, they may provide the interviewer with responses they believe are more 'acceptable'. In these cases it is often better to provide the respondent with a self-administered questionnaire that the interviewer doesn't see. Business survey respondents can also find some topics sensitive, such as IT security breaches or donations to charity, as well as not wanting to reveal commercial-in-confidence information about their business.

Business surveys add a new dimension to collecting sensitive data as it is often necessary for different respondents, sometimes from different areas, to complete parts of the form and approve its content. Some respondents might not want the others to see particular answers. The negative effect of sensitive questions may be aggravated if they are placed at the beginning of the questionnaire and can therefore contribute to non-response if respondents are unwilling to continue with the remaining questions.

If a sensitive question is further into a form the respondent is more committed to completion, and if they do refuse to continue, the partial response is more useful. Ways of overcoming difficulties associated with sensitive questions may include reassuring respondents that the information they provide is confidential, and not requiring respondents to write their name anywhere on the survey form.

Attitude Strength These questions seek to locate a respondent's opinion on a rating scale with a limited number of points. Whereas a three point scale would only measure whether they agree, disagree, or neither, but not the strength. Using many scale points will generally not provide meaningful differences in attitude strength. Care needs to be taken with the use of attitudinal scales because some respondents may have difficulty interpreting the scale. Additionally, such scales are interpreted subjectively and this interpretation can differ between respondents.

Acquiescence This situation arises when respondents have a general tendency to agree rather than disagree with anything. It occurs when respondents are asked whether they agree or disagree with a statement, especially when the supplied statements are presented as plausible generalities. It can also appear for questions requiring a yes or no response. This tendency can be due to a combination of factors, such as the personality and education level of respondent, as well as conditions of the interview or design of a self-completed questionnaire.

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Respondents will often agree when the question is ambiguous or otherwise difficult to answer. The effect may be exaggerated when the respondent is fatigued or has to answer a long string of questions with the same response categories. A related effect is satisficing, where respondents select the first reasonable answer rather than make the effort to find or remember the best answer.

Simple leases could be quoted from a newly created standard price list automatically generated by the quoting system for the most typical set of lease attributes. Anyone receiving a telephone sales query could quote a simple, standard lease. Complex but predictable leases were those for which the parameter values, while numerous and interrelated, could be specified with a high level of confidence.

The quoting system computed the price, and many values were defined as system defaults. When various departments were involved, the quoting system coordinated storing and integrating the input of multiple departments.


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  7. The primary customer-contact person monitored the lease progress via the system and might enter most of the information. Uncertain and also possibly complex leases were those for which the factors were known, but their values not known with certainty. The pricing model embedded in the quoting system provided a template or guide for identifying those uncertain factors whose values needed defining.

    Each department was responsible for estimating those values or probable ranges within its domain of expertise. The system coordinated those values, supported "what if…" profitability analysis, and computed an overall price within some range of certainty. The results of sensitivity analysis might be returned to the departments for additional estimation, and discussion to coordinate the overall estimate of uncertainty might be required. Ambiguous leases were those that could not be specified sufficiently to use the quoting system, and equivocal leases were not a clear fit.

    Those leases would still be processed in management meetings. Those meetings now focused on just the "difficult" leases, however. Additionally, the specific knowledge-processing goals resolving equivocality or ambiguity could be made explicit, making more efficient use of management's and experts' efforts and capabilities.

    The management team focused on migrating those novel transactions that became routine over time to the other more efficient lease-handling processes as the organization learned more. The quoting system provided a formal repository to capture that knowledge as it emerged.