Samantha Heintzelman and Laura King, at the University of Missouri, published an article in American Psychologist in 2014 titled, “Life is Pretty Meaningful.” In this article the authors discuss their work that explores the answer to the “lofty” question “How meaningful is life, in general?” To do this, Heintzelman and King examined two broad categories of data sources: 1) large-scale surveys – six representative surveys conducted in the U.S. and a worldwide poll; and 2) articles published in the literature that explicitly report on research studies utilizing one of two established measures of meaning in life – the Purpose in Life Test (PIL) and Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ). The large-scale surveys asked yes-and-no questions such as “Did you feel that your life has meaning [in the past 12 months]?” as well as agree-disagree rating scale items such as “My life has a real purpose.” Their analysis of these surveys concluded that “for most people, life is meaningful [and] comparatively few Read Full Text
Two articles published in Research Design Review in 2015 concerned an important goal of most researchers: to unravel the mysteries of attitudes and behavior. Both of these articles emphasize the idea that an essential ingredient to achieving this goal is allowing sufficient time in the research process to discover and explore contradictions in participants’ responses and find the personal meanings associated with the issues or constructs of interest.
The suggestion of adding time to research designs – e.g., longer survey questionnaires, lengthier in-depth interviews – flies in the face of the ever-increasing focus on “faster and cheaper” research through technology. A research design, however, that acknowledges the inconsistent and contradictory nature of human beings, and is intent on discovering personal meaning, will give the researcher the appropriate freedom to reach this all-important objective.
These articles are available for download in the document “Designing Research to Find Contradictions & Personal Meaning.”
Many conversations about research design revolve around the common goal of maximizing response. Whether it is a quantitative or qualitative study, researchers routinely make design decisions that they hope will mitigate refusals and better the odds of obtaining reliable and valid responses to research questions. Survey and qualitative – focus group, in-depth interview, ethnographic – researchers carefully consider such things as sampling, mode, screening, survey request/recruiting, and overall questionnaire/guide design along with question wording, all with the desire to derive useful outcomes based on a sound approach to maximizing the actual number of people responding to the research request as well as the integrity of the responses received to the research questions.
An important dimension in research design is time; that is, the length of time it will take the survey respondent or qualitative participant to complete his/her involvement with the research. In this regard, questionnaire length (and complexity) is an obvious area of attention in survey research, with researchers such as Jepson, et al. (2005), Deutskens, et al. (2004), and others demonstrating an indirect relationship between length (e.g., in pages or word count) and response rate – the longer the questionnaire length, the lower rate of response. Likewise, Read Full Text