Are you planning to conduct a research study and wondering whether to use questionnaires or interviews? The choice between the two can be confusing, as both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
A questionnaire is a written set of fixed questions with response options used to gather information from respondents. It is usually self-administered by respondents. While an interview is a conversation between an interviewer and a respondent, typically conducted in person or over the phone.
Questionnaires vs. Interviews
|A questionnaire is a written set of questions used to gather information from respondents.||An interview is a conversation between an interviewer and a respondent, usually conducted in person or over the phone.|
|They are self-administered by respondents, who complete and return the questionnaire on their own.||They are usually conducted by an interviewer, who asks questions and records the respondent’s answers.|
|Questionnaires are structured, with a set of fixed questions and response options, and may also include open-ended questions.||Interviews can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured, and may include a mix of fixed and open-ended questions.|
|They are less flexible than interviews, as respondents must choose from predefined response options and may not have the opportunity to elaborate on their answers.||They are more flexible than questionnaires, as the interviewer can probe for additional information, clarify responses, and adapt questions based on the respondent’s answers.|
|Questionnaires are usually completed in advance and may take several days or weeks for respondents to return them.||Interviews are usually conducted in real-time and take between 30 minutes to an hour to complete.|
|They are relatively inexpensive to administer, as they can be distributed to a large number of respondents at once.||They can be more expensive than questionnaires, as they require the time and expertise of an interviewer, and may also require travel expenses.|
What are questionnaires?
Questionnaires are written sets of questions with response options that are used to gather information from respondents. They are typically self-administered by the respondents and can be used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data.
Questionnaires can be used for a wide range of purposes, such as conducting surveys, gathering feedback, and measuring attitudes or opinions.
What are interviews?
Interviews are conversations between an interviewer and a respondent, typically conducted in person or over the phone. They are a method of gathering information from individuals and can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured.
Interviews can be used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data and are often used to gain a deeper understanding of a respondent’s attitudes, beliefs, and experiences.
Interviews allow for more in-depth exploration of the respondent’s answers, and the interviewer can probe for additional information, clarify responses, and adapt questions based on the respondent’s answers.
Pros and cons of questionnaires
- They are relatively cheap and quick to administer, which makes them ideal for large-scale studies. They also allow for anonymous responses, which can be helpful if you are studying sensitive topics.
- Questionnaire data can be less reliable than other methods since respondents may not answer truthfully or may not understand the questions.
- If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to collect data from a large number of people, questionnaires may be the way to go. But if you want more in-depth information, interviews may be a better option.
Pros and cons of interviews
- Personal interaction: Interviews allow for more personal interaction between researcher and respondent. This provides an opportunity to explore topics in more detail, as well as gain an understanding of the respondent’s feelings and attitudes towards the topic under study.
- Flexible questions: Interviewers are able to ask questions that are tailored to individual respondents, which is not possible with a pre-determined questionnaire. This allows for greater exploration of topics and responses which might otherwise be overlooked.
- Valuable follow-up information: Interviews can provide valuable follow-up information if needed, such as further probing or clarification of a particular response.
- Time-consuming and expensive: Conducting interviews is often time-consuming and expensive compared to other methods of data collection such as questionnaires, particularly if face-to-face interviews are conducted rather than telephone or online interviews.
- Bias: Interviewer bias is a risk when conducting interviews; this is where the interviewer’s own views may influence the responses given by respondents.
Which research questions work best for each method?
There is no one answer to this question – it depends on the research goals and objectives, as well as the type of data that is needed.
For example, if you are interested in exploring people’s opinions or attitudes on a topic, then a questionnaire would be an ideal method.
If you want to understand the reasons behind those opinions or attitudes, then an interview would be a better choice.
Questionnaires can be sent out to large numbers of people and completed online, which makes them very efficient. However, interviews require more time and effort as each person needs to be spoken to individually.
Tips for crafting quality questions
First, your questions should be clear and concise. They should also be specific enough to elicit the information you are looking for. Additionally, your questions should be unbiased and neutral in order to get the most accurate information possible.
Make sure to test your questions out ahead of time with a few people to ensure they are effective. By following these tips, you can ensure that your questions will help you get the most out of your research.
Key differences between questionnaires and interviews
Cost: Questionnaires are typically much cheaper to administer than interviews. This is because they can be sent out to large groups of people simultaneously, whereas interviews must be conducted one-on-one.
Time commitment: Interviews generally take longer to collect data than questionnaires. This is because each interview must be conducted individually, whereas questionnaires can be sent out en masse.
Data quality: The data collected from interviews is often seen as being more reliable and valid than that collected from questionnaires. This is because interviewers have the opportunity to probe respondents for clarification and more in-depth information. Additionally, the face-to-face nature of interviews allows for nonverbal cues (such as body language) to be taken into account.
Respondent burden: One downside of interviews is that they can place a greater burden on respondents than on questionnaires. This is because interviews require a significant time commitment from respondents, who may need to take time off work or other obligations in order to participate.
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Questionnaires are a cost-effective and efficient way of collecting data from a large number of people and are typically self-administered. Interviews, are more in-depth and allow for the exploration of the respondent’s answers. They can be conducted in person or over the phone and require a skilled interviewer.