Chapter Summary

Chapter Objectives

10.1: Explain how research topics can be investigated with multiple quantitative designs.
10.2: Understand survey research and questionnaire design.
10.3: Define content analysis and coding documents.
10.4: Explain the basics of data management.
10.5: Understand the ethics of quantitative methods.

  • Chapter 1 introduced various studies on the gender gap, which all asked slightly different request questions, tested different hypothesis, and used different methods.
  • Political scientists collect their quantitative measures using three approaches or sources content analysis, surveys, and statistics available from the running record.
  • The use of the written record via systematic coding and classification is an example of content analysis. It involves several distinct steps.
    • The first step is selecting materials germane to the research subject (the sampling frame) and then sampling the actual material to be analyzed from that sampling frame.
    • The second step is to choose the recording unit--how to divide the content into standard units for analysis (a single word, paragraph, page, etc.).
    • The third task is to define the categories of content that are going to be measured--the topics of interest within the content.
    • The final step is deciding the numeric values that will be used to code each category in each recording unit.
  • Questionnaire design refers to the physical layout and packaging of the questionnaire. A goal of questionnaire design is to make the questionnaire attractive and easy for the interviewer and the respondent to follow.
  • The basic rule of question wording is that the target subjects must be able to understand and in principle have access to the requested information.
    • Surveys should avoid using double-barreled questions that ask two or more questions in one, ambiguous terms that might be misinterpreted or misunderstood, leading questions that might bias answers, and inappropriate words including technical words, slang, or unusual vocabulary.
    • Response distributions may be affected by whether the researcher asks a single-sided question, in which the respondent is asked to agree or disagree with a single substantive statement, or a two-sided question, which offers the respondent two substantive choices.
    • Different question types (open or closed-ended) have advantages and disadvantages. Closed-ended questions are easy to code and analyze but limit answers to those predetermined by the researcher. Open-ended questions allow respondents to more fully explain answers and create the opportunity for researchers to find answer choices they had not anticipated but are more difficult to code and analyze.
  • The physical design of a survey can affect response quality and cause bias through the question-order effect in which previous questions affect the answers to subsequent questions or affect the likelihood of completing the survey.
    • A problem to avoid is the response set, this occurs when a series of questions have the same answer choices.
    • Question order also becomes an important consideration when the researcher uses a branching question, which sorts respondents into subgroups and directs these subgroups to different parts of the questionnaire, or a filter question, which screens respondents from inappropriate questions.
  • Surveys can be conducted in person, over the phone, through mail, or the Internet. Surveys takes time and incur costs, such as the amount of professional time required for questionnaire design, the length of the questionnaire, the geographical dispersion of the sample, callback procedures, respondent selection rules, and availability of trained staff.
  • Sample-population congruence refers to how well the individuals in a sample represent the population from which they are presumably drawn.
  • A response rate refers to the proportion of persons initially contacted who actually participate. As the response rate decreases, the likelihood that the sample will not resemble the population increases.
  • Data management is comprised of various components: finding and downloading data, recording data, and managing the data.
  • Ethical concerns also arise with quantitative methods. Researchers should always be objective in accepting and reporting findings, they should also take care to properly report important information about statistics so a careful reader can correctly interpret results, and special care should also be taken when using publicly available data.
  • Quantitative methods are quite flexible and can be used in combination with qualitative methods in a mixed methods approach to solve complex problems.