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Survey tip 3: Avoid hypothetical questions!

Hypothetical questions are those which ask the respondent to put themselves in imaginary situations. Whether or not they are able to do this depends in part to the extent the person has already dealt with the hypothetical situation and how far the hypothetical situation is close to or removed from reality.

It is possible to deal with the situation if it is hypothetical but perfectly conceivable as the respondent already has some experience of the issue. Anyone could answer the following question.

"Let’s assume you have won a million pounds on the lottery – would you then give up work or would you keep working?"

The question is easy to answer because everyone has thought about "what would happen, if..." But imagine that you wanted to test the hypothesis that young people nowadays would rather have immediate professional and financial success, even if it were on shaky ground, than accept reduced, but perhaps more secure, job prospects.

So we ask a young person the following question:

"Imagine you are married and have a 16 year old son who wants to give up his apprenticeship in order to become a professional footballer. Would you support him or would you advise him to complete his apprenticeship?"

Even though the actual alternative in this question – interrupt or terminate the apprenticeship – could be quite true to life for young people, the requirements formulated in the questions – married, having a son with sporting ambitions who has begun an apprenticeship – create an abstract set of general conditions for which people at a young age will not have formed an opinion. The question is too hypothetical.

The following question is still hypothetical, but can be answered:

"Imagine you had the talent to become a professional footballer and received an offer from a Premier League team meaning you would have to end your apprenticeship. Would you pass up the chance to complete your apprenticeship to become a professional footballer immediately or would you complete your apprenticeship?"

The following would be even better, because it is no longer hypothetical and can be answered with a scale:

"How far do you agree with the following statement: A young person should only decide to follow a career in professional football when they have completed their apprenticeship." Answer scale: "I completely disagree" to "I agree completely".
Ein Arbeitsbuch
Aus der Reihe 'Studienskripten zur Soziologie' im VS Verlag
4. erw. Aufl. 2014. 203 S.
Autor: Rolf Porst
ISBN: 978-3658021177
Preis: 14,99 Euro
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Last updated: 16.07.2024