3.2 Questionnaires and interviews
If we are interested in what people think or feel, or in behaviours that are difficult to observe in humans, we need to ask people about themselves. This is a variant on introspection, in that researchers are not looking inside themselves but are using the best possible means to obtain other people's introspections. Psychologists do this through both questionnaires and interviews. Many of you will have filled in questionnaires from market researchers on the street or at home. Questionnaires are written questions designed to elicit short answers or choices between options. They can be completed whether or not the researcher is there and so can be used with thousands of people in a study. For this reason they are usually tightly structured, with questions asked in an invariant order and often with the range of possible answers worked out in advance so that the data can easily be entered into a computer for statistical analysis.
Interviews are face-to-face conversations between a researcher and an interviewee or group of interviewees. Since they are face-to-face, samples used are usually smaller than for questionnaires. Interviews can be tightly structured (as for questionnaires) or more open-ended. They can, therefore, be analysed either quantitatively and statistically, or qualitatively, where researchers transcribe tape-recordings of the interviews, read them repeatedly and analyse their themes.