Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Adroit-e Stupid Questions Checklist

Enjoy before the Festive Season

1)   Make sure questions are irrelevant to your sample population (e.g., ask people in St Albans about avalanche control).

2)   Ask people questions about things they have no experience in (e.g., ask someone who has never flown about in-flight conveniences).

3)   Make sure people feel that answering honestly could undermine their vision of themselves – either in their own eyes, or in the eyes of others (e.g., asking married presidential candidates if they have ever found anyone other than their spouse sexually attractive).

4)   Pose hypothetical questions that are so unlikely that the respondent has never thought about it (e.g., if you knew little green men were landing on the earth in ten years, would you buy more life insurance?)

5)   Create a situation whereby people feel rude if they don’t answer you a certain way (e.g., I’m a parent of a child with cancer. Do you think more money should be spent on cancer care for children?)

6)   Make sure you get the answer you want by creating a leading question (e.g., Doctors have confirmed that Stephen Harper has no heart.  Are you still planning to vote for this heartless politician the next time he forces an election?)

7)   Ask sensitive questions without any tact, assurances of confidentiality, or too early in the questionnaire, before people are more comfortable with the interviewer (e.g., How many times a week do you beat your wife and/or children?).

8)   Ask questions based on an underlying assumption that might not be true (e.g., asking every respondent with a darker skin tone “which country do you come from?”).

9)   Ask questions that are vague and abstract (e.g., asking which disease worries the respondent the most but not specifying whether “worrying” refers to the risk of death, suffering, or disability).

10) Use words that have connotations that can bias responses (e.g., should all Middle East terrorists be arrested? Should sexual perverts have access to counseling?).

11) Use unfamiliar words just to make sure respondents can’t understand the question (e.g., do you believe that a more sanguine demeanor on the part of Stephen Harper will assuage tensions in the House of Commons?).

12) Put two concepts in the questions or essentially ask two questions in one (e.g., are your two major suppliers based in Hertfordshire?  How important to you is it to stop smoking and lose weight?).

13) Damn the grammar police – use double negatives (e.g., do you agree or disagree with the following statement

14) Ask respondents to remember things from the past – the further back, the better (e.g., how many times in 2009 did you clean your bathroom?).

15) Ask people to do feats of mental arithmetic (e.g., what proportion of your weekly pay goes to housing?)

And finally: Train your interviewers to be over zealous from an early age

Merry Xmas

Jonathan Brill