Journal of Technology Education


JTE Editor: Mark Sanders

Volume 2, Number 1
Fall 1990


DLA Ejournal Home | JTE Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search JTE and other ejournals

EDITORIALS
 
           Why I Didn't Respond to Your Questionnaire
 
                        John V. Gallagher
 
               One role I must play, as a scholar, is
          to actively participate in the research ac-
          tivities of other technology educators. Gen-
          erally, this means responding to research
          questionnaires to which I feel qualified to
          contribute.  Either I will complete the re-
          search instrument, or, if the content is out
          of my area of competence, return it with a
          note stating the reason for not completing
          it.
               However, your questionnaire falls into
          neither of the above categories. It contains
          a number of serious defects which threaten
          its reliability, validity, and
          generalizability. This places me in the di-
          lemma of whether to spend time responding to
          a clearly defective survey instrument.  I
          didn't respond to yours for one or more of
          the following reasons. I'm sorry.
 
          REASON 1. YOU FAILED TO REVIEW THE LITERATURE
          AND AVAILABLE DATA BASES.  You are asking for
          information on technology education that is
          readily available or published recently.
 
          DISCUSSION:  A researcher owes the respondent
          the courtesy of using a systematic process of
          research to obtain information to answer the
          research questions/hypotheses. The use of
          data collection instruments should be the
          last resort to obtain information because it
          is unavailable elsewhere.
 
          REASON 2. YOU FAILED TO FIELD TEST YOUR DATA
          COLLECTION INSTRUMENT AND REVISE IT.  Your
          instrument has vague instructions. Your terms
          are not defined. I started to respond but be-
          came frustrated because the lack of internal
          consistency and mutual exclusivity of the
          variables confused me. You sent me an instru-
          ment which has a sloppy format, confusing
          page layout, misspelled words, incorrect
          grammar, etc. You didn't tell me what the
          limits of the study are so I feel that I will
          never finish your instrument.
 
          DISCUSSION:  How can a respondent give reli-
          able and valid information on an instrument
          with these and other defects?  Too often, the
          researcher skips the step of conducting a
          field test. A multiple step field test and
          revision cycle will eliminate most defects in
          the survey instrument. The researcher should
          conduct a final field test with a small sam-
          ple of members of the population to be sur-
          veyed, make corrections, and only then send
          the final version of the instrument.
 
          REASON 3. YOU TIMED YOUR DATA COLLECTION EF-
          FORT POORLY.  I received your instrument
          three days after the date you wanted me to
          respond so my input cannot be included in
          your research. Or, you gave me only a week to
          respond and your instrument arrived during my
          midterm grading week or at the end of the se-
          mester when I was grading term papers and
          final examinations. Or, your instrument ar-
          rived during winter break (or summer vaca-
          tion) when I was away and the due date passed
          before I returned.
 
          DISCUSSION:  Make it convenient for the re-
          spondent.  Give the respondent sufficient
          time to complete the instrument.  Make allow-
          ances for delayed mail, holidays, con-
          ventions, or academic year events when your
          respondents are from the academic community.
          Print follow-up copies of the instrument well
          in advance so they may be mailed to non-
          respondents weeks before the return date.
          Budget your study so you can use FIRST CLASS
          MAIL for all data collection activities both
          TO and FROM the respondents.
 
          REASON 4. YOU FAILED TO HONESTLY IDENTIFY
          YOURSELF.  Who are you and why should I spend
          my valuable time to give you information?
 
          DISCUSSION:  Researchers in technology educa-
          tion need to identify their sponsoring organ-
          ization and the function they perform in the
          organization. If the sponsoring organization
          is generally unknown to technology education
          respondents, then a paragraph explaining its
          roles and purposes is needed. Graduate stu-
          dents conducting technology education thesis
          or dissertation research should identify
          their status in the cover letter accompanying
          the instrument. Graduate advisors should add
          a signed statement to the cover letter stat-
          ing that the instrument is part of an ap-
          proved thesis or dissertation, that the
          advisor reviewed and approved the instrument,
          and that he or she requests respondent coop-
          eration. A copy machine facsimile of the ad-
          visor's signature is appropriate but the
          researcher should personally sign each cover
          letter.
 
          REASON 5. YOU FAILED TO JUSTIFY THE RESEARCH.
          Your assertion that the research will make "a
          valuable contribution to technology
          education" doesn't motivate me to spend my
          valuable time responding.
 
          DISCUSSION:  In the cover letter, provide a
          purpose statement and a statement of need
          briefly describing how the research findings
          will fill a gap in the body of knowledge of
          technology education. Describe how the re-
          searcher, the respondent, or others can use
          the research results.
 
          REASON 6. YOU DIDN'T PROMISE ME AN ABSTRACT
          OF THE RESULTS IF I REQUEST IT.  What am I
          going to get out of my time spent responding?
 
          DISCUSSION: Provide the respondent with a
          place to check on the instrument to request
          an abstract of the results of the research or
          a separate postcard to request an abstract if
          respondent confidentiality is necessary. The
          respondent spends time reflecting on the
          items of the data collection instrument. The
          respondent needs to grow from the research
          and often wonders how he or she contributed
          to the results. An abstract will allow the
          respondent to compare the results with his or
          her own views and learn from the research.
 
          REASON 7. YOU FAILED TO SAY PLEASE AND THANK
          YOU.
 
          DISCUSSION:  Researchers sometimes get so in-
          volved with their research procedure that
          they fail to attend to common courtesies.
          Make your thank you active in voice, per-
          sonal, in the first and second person, di-
          rect, and brief.
 
                             SUMMARY
 
               Experienced survey researchers will find
          nothing new here, yet we continue to receive
          poorly designed and conducted surveys in the
          mail. This threatens the integrity of our
          discipline, because this causes us to wonder
          whether survey research data is valid and re-
          liable. Poor instrument design also leads to
          low instrument returns, further threatening
          the generalizability of the findings.
               Technology educators conducting mailed
          surveys face a difficult challenge in obtain-
          ing a representative response rate. The re-
          quest to complete an instrument imposes upon
          the valuable time of the respondent. The past
          history of poorly designed research instru-
          ments places a negative bias on the process.
          I cannot emphasize enough the importance of
          screening a prototype research instrument
          through a multiple-cycle field test and re-
          vision process to eliminate threats to valid-
          ity and reliability and to make the
          instrument "respondent friendly."
 
 
          ----------------
          John Gallagher is Associate Professor, De-
          partment of Technology, Glassboro State Col-
          lege, Glassboro, New Jersey.
 
 
          Permission is given to copy any
          article or graphic provided credit is given and
          the copies are not intended for sale.
 
Journal of Technology Education   Volume 2, Number 1       Fall 1990

DLA Ejournal Home | JTE Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search JTE and other ejournals