Research Forum Examines the Validity of Survey Questions

Monday, February 15, 2010

The spring semester’s Haub School of Business (HSB) Research Forum kicked off with a presentation on linguistics in survey research led by Assistant Professor of Management Lucy Ford, Ph.D.

The classroom was packed with faculty members attending the presentation on Thursday, Jan. 28, in Mandeville Hall. A lively discussion was held about how our understanding of language, and by extension our comprehension of survey questions, is driven by our individual life experiences.

“Instead of asking the question: ‘Does this organization treat me well?’ we need to provide people with contextual clues,” says Ford, whose current research interests revolve around linguistics in survey research. “Explain what you mean by ‘organization’…how do you identify ‘well’.”

Ford challenges the validity of survey results when questions are not framed appropriately. “If our questions are garbage, then our results are garbage,” she says. “Medical doctors are held accountable when they make a diagnosis based on flawed test results. Aren’t we, as researchers, equally negligible when we publish flawed findings?”

Ford believes the social sciences are flawed in their item construction of survey questions with threats to validity such as negative wording, double negatives, colloquialisms, leading questions, and most of all — ambiguity. To counter this behavior, Ford believes there needs to be a paradigm shift among researchers and editors of academic journals. Until her research is prepared for publication, she plans to continue presenting her preliminary findings at management and organizational behavior conferences.

The HSB Research Forum showcases faculty research and potentially identify collaborators for academic research. “It’s a great way of introducing new faculty to the SJU community, and receiving friendly feedback on ‘work in progress’ prior to submitting research for publication or presentation at an academic conference,” says forum coordinator Natalie Wood, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing and assistant director of the University’s Center for Consumer Research.

The next HSB Research Forum event is scheduled for Thursday Feb. 25, from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Mandeville 310. Janée N. Burkhalter, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, will present “Music Makes Me Move: Consumers’ Relationships with Music and its Impact on their Extra-Musical Consumption Behaviors.”

-- Carolyn Steigleman


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