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Applying Discourse Analysis to the Questionnaire Design and Evaluation Process: A proposal for the incorporation of an alternative methodological tool

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Abstract:

Survey research methods are continuously infused with methodological tools drawn from other disciplines. For example, methods inherent to cognitive psychology (“think out loud”, concurrent probing, retrospective probing) now serve as the basis for much work done in the area of questionnaire design and evaluation. In this paper, we propose that survey researchers consider methodological tools with origins in the fields of linguistics and discourse analysis, to supplement and add alternative insights to the questionnaire evaluation and testing process.

This paper begins by placing the verbal interactions that occur when interviewer and survey respondent engage in a dialogue based on a questionnaire text within the context of discursive analysis. We use a set of criteria proposed by Parker (1992) to argue that these verbal interactions clearly qualify for consideration as discursive texts. Next we review current three approaches to discourse analysis including conversational analysis (Greatbatch, 1998), structural analysis (Bell, 1991), and critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 1989, 1998, Van Dijk, 1988), and consider how they can be adapted to the evaluation of survey questions and instruments.

We demonstrate how discourse analysis might be applied to a series of tape-recorded and transcribed (pre-test) interactions between respondents and interviewers and what insights such an analysis might provide questionnaire designers. We conclude by comparing and contrasting the results of discursive analysis to other methods used in the testing and evaluation of survey instruments, including cognitive interviewing (Blair and Presser, 1993; Willis, 1999), behavioral coding schema (Fowler and Cannell, 1996), and expert review processes (Forsyth, Levin and Fisher, 1999). Our results suggest that discourse analysis may prove to be a useful addition to the growing battery of evaluation mechanisms currently available to questionnaire designers, providing both similar and substantiating insights as well as an alternative means of interpreting and evaluating survey questions.

Author's Keywords:

questionnaire evluation and pretesting, discourse analysis
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Association:
Name: American Association for Public Opinion Research
URL:
http://www.aapor.org


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MLA Citation:

horak, christine. and kleiner, brian. "Applying Discourse Analysis to the Questionnaire Design and Evaluation Process: A proposal for the incorporation of an alternative methodological tool" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Sheraton Music City, Nashville, TN, Aug 16, 2003 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p116290_index.html>

APA Citation:

horak, c. a. and kleiner, b. , 2003-08-16 "Applying Discourse Analysis to the Questionnaire Design and Evaluation Process: A proposal for the incorporation of an alternative methodological tool" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Sheraton Music City, Nashville, TN <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p116290_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Survey research methods are continuously infused with methodological tools drawn from other disciplines. For example, methods inherent to cognitive psychology (“think out loud”, concurrent probing, retrospective probing) now serve as the basis for much work done in the area of questionnaire design and evaluation. In this paper, we propose that survey researchers consider methodological tools with origins in the fields of linguistics and discourse analysis, to supplement and add alternative insights to the questionnaire evaluation and testing process.

This paper begins by placing the verbal interactions that occur when interviewer and survey respondent engage in a dialogue based on a questionnaire text within the context of discursive analysis. We use a set of criteria proposed by Parker (1992) to argue that these verbal interactions clearly qualify for consideration as discursive texts. Next we review current three approaches to discourse analysis including conversational analysis (Greatbatch, 1998), structural analysis (Bell, 1991), and critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 1989, 1998, Van Dijk, 1988), and consider how they can be adapted to the evaluation of survey questions and instruments.

We demonstrate how discourse analysis might be applied to a series of tape-recorded and transcribed (pre-test) interactions between respondents and interviewers and what insights such an analysis might provide questionnaire designers. We conclude by comparing and contrasting the results of discursive analysis to other methods used in the testing and evaluation of survey instruments, including cognitive interviewing (Blair and Presser, 1993; Willis, 1999), behavioral coding schema (Fowler and Cannell, 1996), and expert review processes (Forsyth, Levin and Fisher, 1999). Our results suggest that discourse analysis may prove to be a useful addition to the growing battery of evaluation mechanisms currently available to questionnaire designers, providing both similar and substantiating insights as well as an alternative means of interpreting and evaluating survey questions.

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