Incoming Faculty Director, Jennifer Dykema, and outgoing Faculty Director, Nora Cate Schaeffer, review several decades of literature about how characteristics of survey questions affect the quality of survey data in a new paper in the Annual Review of Sociology, “Advances in the Science of Asking Questions.”
Recent research about survey questions has emphasized decision-based approaches. Current research focuses on identifying and systematizing characteristics of questions that are key in researchers’ decisions. The paper describes important classes of decisions and question characteristics: topic, type of question (e.g., event or behavior, evaluation or judgment), response dimension (e.g., occurrence, frequency, intensity), conceptualization and operationalization of the target object (e.g., how to label the object being asked about and the response dimension), question structure (e.g., use of a filter question, placement in a battery), question form or response format (e.g., yes–no, selection from ordered categories, choice from a list, discrete value), response categories, question wording, and question implementation.
Some of this framework for thinking about question characteristics was developed in two earlier articles that are also freely available:
- Nora Cate Schaeffer and Jennifer Dykema. “Questions for Surveys: Current Trends and Future Directions,” in Public Opinion Quarterly.
- Nora Cate Schaeffer and Stanley Presser. 2003. “The Science of Asking Questions.” This paper ranks eleventh on the ARS’s list of “most downloaded since 1996.”