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Designing Questionnaires for

Children and Young People


Alice Bell
Families and Children Group
National Centre for Social Research (NatCen)
Royal College of Nursing Conference
Consulting with Children and Young People
Friday 9th June 2006

Session outline
Quantitative and qualitative research
When to use questionnaires with children and young
people
Designing questions for children and young people the Question and Answer Model
Question testing techniques
Interactive quiz!

Two types of research


Quantitative

Qualitative

Two types of research


Quantitative
Fixed (questionnaires)

Qualitative

Flexible (e.g. topic guides)

Two types of research


Quantitative
Fixed (questionnaires)
Incidence & prevalence

Qualitative

Flexible (e.g. topic guides)


Reasons & explanation

Two types of research


Quantitative
Fixed (questionnaires)
Incidence & prevalence
Representative sample

Qualitative

Flexible (e.g. topic guides)


Reasons & explanation
Purposive sample

Two types of research


Quantitative

Fixed (questionnaires)
Incidence & prevalence
Representative sample
Data ordered & numerical

Qualitative

Flexible (e.g. topic guides)


Reasons & explanation
Purposive sample
Data disorderly & rich

Choosing an appropriate
methodology (1)
Traditional leaning towards using qualitative
techniques with children and young people
Quantitative research widely considered feasible from
age 7
but age only a rough proxy for various aspects of
development

Choosing an appropriate
methodology (2)

Be clear about your research questions


Identify your population
Consider time and budget
Quant and qual in combination?

Range of quantitative options


Face-to-face interviewing (paper or computerassisted)
Telephone interviewing (paper or computer-assisted)
Self-completion questionnaires (paper or computerbased - including online)

Question-Answer Model
Comprehend
question

Retrieve
information

Respond

Judge
(Tourangeau 1984)

Comprehension

Vocabulary
Question length
Ambiguity
Double-barrelled questions
Depersonalised/indirect questions
Complex constructions
Negative questions
Suggestively phrased questions

Retrieval
Level of recall
Complexity of retrieval process
Reference periods

Judgement
Filtering responses - social desirability
Context effects
No right or wrong answers
Sensitive questions and topics

Response
Number of response categories
Ordering of response categories
Scales and labels
Explicit vs implicit Dont Knows
Showcards

Question testing
Sometimes called cognitive testing
Used to revise and refine questionnaire
In-depth interviews; retrospective probing and thinkaloud techniques
Other options: expert appraisal, focus groups,
observation

Question testing - example (1)


Do you have a personal computer (PC) at
home?
(Tick one box)
Yes
No

Question testing - example (1)


revised
Do you or your family have a computer at
home?
(Tick one box)
Yes
No

Question testing - example (2)


How often, if ever, are you punished at
school e.g. detention, sent to see the
head teacher, sent out of the classroom?
Never
Rarely
Sometimes
Often

Question testing - example (2)


revised
In the last four weeks, how many times
have you been punished at school?
Never
Once or twice
Three or more times