Questions are essential in research. The researcher asks questions of himself to give a clear direction to his research.
Therefore, the initiation of an investigation is based on questions.
Similarly, questions will be key in data collection instruments such as questionnaires, interviews, Likert scales, among others.
For this reason, the following publication is intended to offer recommendations for asking questions.
Below, we list some essential characteristics to raise clear questions in an investigation.
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1. One-sided approach
The questions must address aspects of the investigation separately.
It is recommended to treat one aspect per question to avoid confusion and complexity.
For example, suppose we aim to know the culture of an Aboriginal society.
A question related to the research topic could be what are the mythological beliefs and power figures in this Aboriginal society?
In this case, however, two aspects of the culture of that indigenous society are being mixed: its mythological beliefs and its power figures.
It is best to explore these aspects separately by asking the questions as follows: what are the mythological beliefs of this Aboriginal society, and what are the power figures of this Aboriginal society?
2. Be understandable
Questions must be formulated in clear and comprehensible language for the recipient.
Some recommendations to get as much understanding as possible are:
- Change ambiguous terms to those that are best known.
- Avoid confusing words or words of little use in the common vocabulary.
- The question can be long to get it understood. Under no circumstances should we give priority to conciseness and make the question less clear.
3. Be specific and delimited
The specific questions are clear. They rule out the possibility of causing confusion.
That is its main purpose: to achieve responses that are consistent with the objectives of the research or the research-in-development phase.
With specific and delimited questions, precise, clear and exact answers are obtained.
Examples of specific and delimited questions:
In this sense, the delimitation of the question can correspond to the objectives of the research and the data collection instrument.
For example, if we conduct research aimed at knowing the routines of social media use by adolescents, a narrow question would be:
Do you use the social network Facebook for how many hours a day?
- 2 hours
- 3 hours
- 4 hours
The question will get an answer according to the purpose of the questionnaire.
It is recommended to avoid questions such as, Do you use social networks?, it could be more specific to do it as follows:
Check the box for the following social networks on which you have created a profile
Continuing with this example, then you can detailed in aspects such as times of use, parallel use with other activities of the day,among others.
What aspects should an elaborate question have for a data collection instrument?
Additional considerations must be added when questions are raised for data collection instruments.
This is because the link with others is added.
Therefore, the questions must meet other requirements in addition to being clear, delimited and addressing one aspect at a time:
1. Avoid inducing responses
If the question is to be developed in the context of a data collection tool aimed at a third party, it is recommended to avoid inducing answers.
This purges the research process of forcibly driving it towards trends.
For example, suppose we have a questionnaire aimed at exploring the gastronomic tastes of a locality.
A question in the context of such an investigation could be:
Which of the following dishes in this locality are of your preference? Mark your answer with an equis:
- Spaghetti with sauce.
- Chicken soup.
- Broccoli empanadas.
This question would lead to an answer if it were formulated as follows. Do you confirm that chicken soup is the best recipe for the gastronomy of this locality?
In this case the question is intentionally forcing towards an answer.
2. Avoid asking unnecessary questions
Continuing with the cases of questions in questionnaires, interviews and other data collection instruments, it is recommended to ask the necessary questions.
This will always depend on the objectives of the research.
In some cases, it will be necessary to ask several questions about one aspect to explore the different dimensions of it.
However, it is considered unnecessary to ask something that has already been raised before.
If a question covers the needs for which it was raised then it can be considered satisfactory.
In this sense, the question will focus on a variable, specific aspect of the research problem, etc.
3. Avoid bothering in the question
Questions on sensitive topics could induce resistance or discomfort in the responding subject.
That is why it is recommended to consider whether the questions are necessary and appropriate to the context in which it is investigated.
And, on the other hand, it is suggested that they be formulated in the most subtle way possible to generate confidence in the recipient of the question.
For example, it is not the same to ask are you a consumer of alcoholic beverages? to do it as follows:
Which of the following drinks are of your preference?
- Flavored water
- Fruit juice
Similarly, in the questions of sensitive topics, a previous exploration of the group to be interviewed can be carried out to know their perceptions and adapt the questions to their characteristics.
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