188.8.131.52 Mailed Questionnaire Method
Under this method, a set of questions pertaining to the survey (known as questionnaire) is prepared and is sent to the informants by post. The questionnaire contains questions and provides space for recording answers. A request is made to the informants through a covering letter to fill up the questionnaire and send it back within a specified time.
The questionnaire studies can be classified on the basis of:
(i) The degree to which the questionnaire is formalized/structured,
(ii) This disguise or lack of disguise of the questionnaire, and
(iii) The communication method used.
When no formal questionnaire is in use, interviewer adapt their questioning to each interview as it progresses or perhaps elicit responses by indirect methods such as showing pictures on which the respondent comments. When a prescribed sequence of question is followed, it is referred to as structured study. On the other hand, when no prescribed sequence of questions exists, the study is non-structured.
When questionnaires are constructed so that the objective is clear to the respondents, they are non-disguised; on the other hand, when the objective is not clear, the questionnaire is a disguised one. Using these two bases of classification, four types of studies can be distinguished:
1. Non-disguised structured
2. Non-disguised non-structured
3. Disguised structured, and
4. Disguised non-structured.
1. This method of collecting data can be easily adopted where the field of investigation is very vast and the informants are spread over a wide geographical area.
2. It is also relatively cheap and expeditious provided the informants respond in time.
3. On questions of personal nature or questions requiring reaction by the family, this method is generally superior to either personal interviews or telephone method.
1. This method can be adopted only where the informants are literate people so that they can understand written questions and send the answers in writing.
2. It involves some uncertainty about the response. Co-operation on the part of informants may be difficult to presume.
3. The information supplied by the informants may not be correct and it may be difficult to verify the accuracy.
The success of this method depends upon the skill with which the questionnaire is drafted and the extent to which willing co-operation of the informants is secured. Since the advantages of the personal contact are lost in the mailed questionnaire, the form and tone of the questionnaire must be designed to supply as far as possible the missing personal element. Where the information is required by a government department, it is generally available on account of legal or administrative sanctions. In other cases, it is necessary to take informants into confidence so that they furnish correct information.
To make this method work effectively the following suggestions are made:
1. The questionnaire should be so framed that it does not become as undue burden on the respondents, otherwise they may not return them back.
2. Prepaid postage stamp should be affixed.
3. The sample should be large.
4. It should be adopted in such enquiries where it is expected that the respondents would return the questionnaire because of their own interest in the enquiry.
5. Its use should be preferred in such enquiries where there could be a legal compulsion to supply the information so that the risk of non-response is eliminated.
This method is appropriate in cases where informants are spread over a wide area, i.e., in case of extensive surveys.