In Market Research questioning of the structured, disguised type has the advantages of disguise that primarily respondents do not know what is being measured and, hence, are not biased in their answers. There is no harm of any kind to respondents on account of this disguise. The advantages of structure lie in the reduction of interviewer and interpreter bias, in quicker and less costly interviewing, and in easier tabulation of results.
Some structured, disguised tests of attitudes are based on the theory that individuals’ knowledge, perception, and memory are conditioned by their attitudes. For example, Democrats listen to more speeches by other Democrats than by Republicans; therefore, Democrats have more information about Democratic candidates than about Republican candidates. A simple test of information about candidates would then serve to separate Democrats from Republicans. A straightforward question-Are you a Democrat or a Republican? might get a biased answer.
Similarly, it is theorized that if respondents are asked questions to which they do not know the answers, they will tend to guess in the direction of their own attitudes. For example, when asked whether various types of people ate hot cereal for breakfast, most respondents reported doctors ate a lot of it, but movie actors ate very little hot cereal. This suggests that those respondents thought hot cereal was healthful but “unglamorous.”
Data collected by structured, disguised techniques on attitudes towards instant coffee were compared with the similar data collected by non-structured, disguised techniques as described above. Although the samples in the two studies were not directly comparable, the results obtained with the simple structured, disguised questionnaire were similar in nature to those obtained by the non-structured approach. The structured study, however, benefited from having the prior data as a guide to the study design.
These studies suggest that it is possible to obtain the advantages of disguise and structure in the same study with the attendant ease of handling in interviews, ease of comprehension by respondent, ease of administration and tabulating, objectively measurable reliability, and economy.
Questionnaire Studies Classified by Methods of Communication:
In the preceding discussion, questionnaires were classified on the basis of a combination of structure and disguise. Another classification, which overlaps the preceding one but is useful for illustrating other types of opportunities and problems, is classification on the basis of the method of communication used. Three different methods of communication with questionnaires are available: (1) personal interview, (2) telephone, and (3) mail. Personal interviews are those in which an interviewer obtains information from respondents in face-to-face meetings. Telephone interviews are similar except that communication between interviewer and respondent is via telephone instead of direct personal contact. In most mail surveys, questionnaires are mailed to respondents who also return them by mail. Sometimes, however, mail questionnaires are placed in respondent hands by other means, such as by attaching them to consumer products, putting them in magazines or newspapers, or having field-workers leave them with respondents. Respondents complete the questionnaires by themselves and return the completed forms through the mail. Occasionally a survey mails questionnaires to respondents and field-workers go to pick them up.
For years the bulk of all marketing research studies were conducted by personal interview at the respondent’s home. This is no longer the case. A study of individuals who had been interviewed in 1986 showed the following methods of communication:
Personal interview at shopping centre-30%
Personal interview at home-11%
When personal interviews are used, they now occur more often in shopping centers than at home. Telephone and mail interviews are the most widely used, primarily because they tend to be cheaper than the other methods of communication yet give satisfactory results. Personal interviews at home are declining in use.