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Survey tip 5: Avoid assumptions and suggestive questions!Assumptions in the formulation of questions can lead to the respondents being unable to answer properly, because while they agree with the actual statement they do not agree with the part of the sentence which includes the assumption (this also applies to questions which contain explicit premises which you must agree with before you get to the "actual" question. For example:
"Does the lack of respect schoolchildren have for their teachers, in your opinion, influence everyday teaching methods in schools?"
In the formulation of this question it is declared to be correct that schoolchildren have a lack of respect for their teachers.
This may even be factually correct. However, how should the respondent react if they do not share this clear assumption? If the respondent does not agree that schoolchildren have a lack of respect for their teachers they won’t (be able to) answer the question.
Suggestive questions have the disadvantage of forcing the respondents into a corner and reducing their freedom to answer the questions. Here is an example:
"Leading scientists believe that car exhaust emissions can hinder the growth of children. Do you think this view is correct or do you think it is wrong?"
Other comparable types of phrases are "Most people..." or "It has been well documented that..." or "as is well known...".
Phrases such as these either lead to the respondent lacking the courage to contradict the authority of the statement or the majority of "the others", so they adapt their answer. It can also lead to people reacting to the restrictions when answering the question by quite deliberately going against the opinion of the experts or the majority. In both cases the actual opinion is not given, rather the respondent adapts or rejects the general opinion. So the suggestion should be removed from the formulation of the question and instead you should ask: "Do you think the statement, car exhaust emissions can hinder the growth of children is right or wrong?"
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Last updated: 14.10.2018