When is survey burden the fault of responders? #AAPOR #MRX

Ah, yet another enjoyable set of sessions from #AAPOR, chock full of modeling, p-values, and the need to transition to R. Because hey, if you’re not using R, what old-fashioned, sissy statistical package are you using?

This session was all about satisficing, burden, and data quality and one of the presenters made a remark that really resonated with me – when is burden caused by responders. In this case, burden was measured as surveys that required people to extend a lot of cognitive ability, or when people weren’t motivated to pay full attention, or when people had difficulty with the questions.

Those who know me know that it always irks me when the faults of researchers and their surveys are ignored and passed on to people taking surveys. So let me flip this coin around.

  • Why do surveys require people to extend a lot of cognitive ability?
  • Why do surveys cause people to be less than fully motivated?
  • Why do people have difficulty answering surveys?

We can’t, of course, write surveys that will appeal to everyone. Not everyone has the same reading skills, computer skills, hand-eye coordination, visual acuity, etc. Those problems cannot be overcome. But we absolutely can write survey that will appeal to most people. We can write surveys with plain and simple language that don’t have prerequisites of sixteen Dicken’s novels. We can write surveys that are interesting and pleasant and respective of how people think and feel, thereby helping them to feel motivated. We CAN write surveys that aren’t difficult to answer.

And yes, my presentation compared data quality in long vs short surveys. Assuming my survey was brilliantly written, then why were there any data quality issues at all?  🙂


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