December 04, 2016

Highlighted Problems With The Questionnaire Approach

A while after the submission of the original upgrade paper, I had concerns about my own methodological approach. The sequential exploratory mixed methods design, which I thought was faultless, was being questioned by my own thoughts and increasing awareness of potential problems. The concerns that were raised and discussed with regards to the questionnaire approach were as follows:

Response Rate

Literature shows that response rates to online questionnaires, no matter their quality, is usually fairly low and usually does not meet the requirements of the researcher or the general requirements to reach data levels needed to produce a quality set of results and a quality set of insights based on these results. I did express my concerns about not reaching these levels and I did say that if I did not reach the required levels I would be disappointed. On this fact alone the assessors advised me to drop the questionnaire approach and just use the grounded theory approach as I would be able to attain and analyse much more data.

Precisely Measuring Phenomena

Construct validity is a key issue in questionnaire design. Given that new insights have been found after the submission of the upgrade paper questions were being asked from myself about whether or not I could really capture what I really wanted to capture. Could the questionnaire capture all that I really wanted to capture? Would it be even able to measure what I want to measure? The problem I had at the upgrade presentation was I could not present a questionnaire nor give much in the way of what could be on the questionnaire because the entire design would be based the findings of grounded theory. This point was appreciated. But even so, even if it were not mentioned I would have still had my own concerns of my own approaches.


This wasn’t mentioned at the presentation, but a key issue here is time. It takes time to develop a grounded theory, convert it into a format suitable for the development of the questionnaire, trial and deploy the questionnaire, wait for the appropriate responses, and then analyse the data using various appropriate quantitative measurements. Not to mention writing an eighty thousand word thesis and writing various conference and research papers in between all that. Again although this wasn’t mentioned, I do wonder if time factored into the advice to drop the mixed methods approach and stay with grounded theory.


Sometimes I wonder if there really was a secret message underneath all this. Something along the lines of, “listen, we know you are enthusiastic about this and we don’t doubt your ability to do what you propose but you have to think about the practical aspects such as time, and whether or not you can do everything that you plan to do within the time allocated to complete a Ph.D.” Which is, obviously, a fair assessment to make as I was questioning myself about the element of time. It’s all fine and dandy producing a research design that is workable, but really pointless in an administrative sense if it cannot be completed within the allocated time and also if there is a chance that some aspects of the Ph.D. could remain uncompleted at the time of the need to write the rest of the thesis.

Perhaps a sequential, exploratory mixed methods approach would take too long to do for a Ph.D. project; perhaps sometimes playing it “safe” is the best option. I say “safe” in quotation marks because whilst the approach might appear to be safe in terms of own ability to do the work in the allotted time, it doesn’t mean that it’ll be easy!

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