Surveys can assist in collecting diverse types of information for varied types of studies, including quantitative ones. This paper will follow the development of a survey tool that is meant for a quantitative project dedicated to binge drinking. Two online surveys will be analyzed, and their examples, along with the literature covering the process, will be used to create a survey tool with a description of its variables, population, and methods of administration. This project illustrates the process of customizing methods to the needs of a particular scientific inquiry.
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Template Examples and Comparisons
SurveyMonkey is an online survey service that provides free templates for consideration. Two of them that are related to healthcare were chosen for this paper, and they will be compared here. The first template is dedicated to hospital performance (SurveyMonkey, n.d.a), and the second one is about smoking habits (SurveyMonkey, n.d.b); links to them can be found in the references. The hospital tool uses only Likert-scale multiple-choice questions, but it is rather long; it has 22 questions, and the smoking one has only six. Still, the latter uses more diverse response options; it includes checkboxes, sliders, as well as multiple-choice and open-ended questions.
Furthermore, the first survey has rather long and complicated questions and answers; it might take some time to complete, which can become a problem from the perspective of retaining respondents (Mrug, 2010; Pew Research Center, 2019). It also covers a very wide range of topics, which explains the number of questions. The smoking template is significantly shorter and uses easier language; it can be completed in less than a minute.
Regarding the costs, many of SurveyMonkey’s (2019) options are free; one could create similar surveys without any payments. However, the first template is paid because it is rather long, and the second one is free. These examples demonstrate that surveys can vary greatly in their language and types or numbers of questions, but such differences might be explained by the different purposes and areas of investigation. Also, the analysis suggests that SurveyMonkey can be used for developing varied online surveys, but it also proves that some options cannot be accessed for free.
Area, Topic, and Variables
One of the topics that could be assessed with a short quantitative survey is alcohol use. Alcohol use disorders are a major problem in the US that has been growing more prevalent (Grant et al., 2017); it also appears to be correlated with multiple mental disorders (Grant et al., 2015). As a result, the investigation of the prevalence of various aspects of alcohol use in patients of mental health institutions can be a worthwhile endeavor, which can be carried out with a descriptive or correlation study. Thus, the topic of the proposed study is alcohol consumption. There are multiple variables that can be of interest in this regard; here, binge drinking will be considered because it is a particularly dangerous drinking habit (Delker, Brown, & Hasin, 2016). Specifically, the frequency and volume of binge drinking will be reviewed.
Since the instrument is supposed to be short, only one demographics question and three variable-related questions will be included. This tool will be able to produce the data for calculating the prevalence of binge drinking among the patients of the clinic. In addition, it can be used to look for correlations between different mental health concerns and alcohol use. The first question is introduced for that purpose, and it uses the data from the article by Grant et al. (2015) to determine the disorders that are likely to have a correlation. This question may be viewed as the demographics section of this tool, which is typically incorporated in surveys (Mrug, 2010).
It could make sense to also collect the data for age and gender since they appear to show a correlation with substance use (Delker et al., 2016), but this is a short tool. The alcohol use disorder is included here as well; this way, the survey might help to determine if there are any underdiagnosed people visiting the clinic.
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Many of the design choices were meant to make the questionnaire more attractive. It covers a sensitive topic, so it is meant to be completed quickly. Multiple-choice questions (both dichotomous and ordinal ones) are used for the respondents’ convenience (Mrug, 2010; Pew Research Center, 2019). However, “other” options are also incorporated for responses that might differ from the intended ones. The terms that might appear ambiguous are explained using relevant literature to ensure that the participants can respond (Trochim, 2006). For example, the article by Lovatt et al. (2015) was employed to define binge drinking. The language is meant to be simple and non-judgmental as recommended by the sources on the topic (Mrug, 2010; Pew Research Center, 2019; Trochim, 2006). The final version of the tool is presented below.
- Do you have any of the following diagnoses? Check all that apply.
- Alcohol use disorder.
- Antisocial personality disorder.
- An anxiety disorder (the specific diagnosis may be, for example, generalized anxiety disorder).
- Bipolar disorder.
- Borderline personality disorder.
- A depressive disorder (the specific diagnosis may be, for example, major depressive disorder).
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Other substance use disorders.
- Panic disorder.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Other (please specify).
- Do you binge drink? Usually, binge drinking refers to taking more than 5-7 drinks over a short period of time.
- 1 drink = one beer glass OR one wine glass OR one shot of a stronger beverage.
- If you binge drink, how much do you usually drink at once?
- 5-7 drinks.
- 8-10 drinks.
- Other (please specify).
- How often do you binge drink?
- Once a year.
- Several times a year.
- Once a month.
- A couple of times a month.
- Once a week.
- A couple of times a week.
- Every day.
- Other (please specify).
Thank you for your time!
The proposed study targets a very specific population, which consists of the clients of a particular mental health institution. There are different approaches to reaching them. On the one hand, with the approval of a relevant review board, a researcher might get access to the institution’s databases. In that case, the participants could be sampled randomly and reached through their contact information. Alternatively, a more non-probability sample could be acquired by disseminating links to the survey through the institution’s specialists; this way, fewer privacy concerns apply. The recruitment of participants for a paper-based survey or interview with similar questions could be carried out through the same methods.
However, the specialist-based approach could save time since the participants would already be physically present in the institution, and the short survey could be administered immediately upon getting consent. With the random selection approach, such a meeting would first have to be arranged first. Depending on the priorities of a researcher, either option could be chosen; if a project has sufficient resources, the online random sampling approach can be chosen to produce a more representative sample and enable the use of an online tool.
Tool Testing: Participant Experience
As intended, the questionnaire takes less than a minute to complete. This outcome is connected to the use of multiple-choice questions. It appeared simple to understand to the first participant (its creator), but testing it with another person would assist in determining the accessibility of the instrument (Pew Research Center, 2019). In general, the features that were chosen for the tool appear to have had their effect; it is simple, short, and easy to read and use.
The tool is a questionnaire, which can be posted online or provided in person; these options have benefits and limitations. Some of the primary benefits of online tools are that they increase the reach of a study (McInroy, 2016). While this project does not require contacting people from distant locations, the need to travel for a meeting may deter some of the potential participants. From this perspective, the option also costs- and time-effective, which may encourage more people to fill out the short survey.
The likelihood of participation is especially important since the topic can be considered sensitive. Binge drinking is a socially undesirable action, and potential participants might dislike the idea of sharing this information. Research suggests that sensitive topics are best examined without direct contact with an interviewer (Tourangeau & Yan, 2007). Therefore, this topic, as well as many other similarly sensitive questions, including those related to mental health and substance use and abuse, may be better suited for an online survey.
Online surveys are shown by some recent studies to be comparable in the quality of their data to pen-and-paper options, but McInroy (2016) points out that differences between the two still exist. The author highlights the fact that online methods have limitations, including the fact that not everybody has access to the Internet or is proficient in using the related technologies, which complicates the recruitment of a representative sample.
In addition, there are always anonymity and security concerns; for instance, a recent study by Halim, Foozy, Rahmi, and Mustapha (2018) shows that the data from free SurveyMonkey accounts might be not as well protected as those from the paid ones. Finally, there exists the possibility of one participant responding several times to one and the same survey with different e-mail addresses (McInroy, 2016). From the perspective of identity verification, the methods that involve direct contact between the participant and interviewer are better.
Still, these concerns are not the main ones for the described project. The likelihood of people attempting to report their information about binge drinking repeatedly is not very high, and the problem of tracking the responses and non-response rates could be resolved through the random sampling and targeted e-mailing of the survey described above. Thus, for the proposed survey, online solutions are a good choice provided that the rest of the methodology is well-aligned with the option.
The analysis of some existing surveys and the creation of this one, as well as the review of relevant literature, allows making the following conclusions. Surveys are a very flexible tool that can vary greatly in form and purpose. They can be developed to fit a project with particular topics, variables, and approaches to recruitment and data collection. Online surveys have their advantages; among other things, they are better for gathering data about sensitive topics. However, they make it more difficult to create a representative sample. A study with random sampling could resolve this issue to an extent, which is why online tools are a good solution for the hypothetical project aimed at collecting the data about binge drinking in the patients of a particular institution.
Delker, E., Brown, Q., & Hasin, D. S. (2016). Alcohol consumption in demographic subpopulations: an epidemiologic overview. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 38(1), 7-15.
Grant, B. F., Chou, S. P., Saha, T. D., Pickering, R. P., Kerridge, B. T., Ruan, W. J.,… Hasin, D. S. (2017). Prevalence of 12-month alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and DSM-IV Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry, 74(9), 911-923. Web.
Grant, B. F., Goldstein, R. B., Saha, T. D., Chou, S. P., Jung, J., Zhang, H.,… Hasin, D. S. (2015). Epidemiology of DSM-5 Alcohol Use Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry, 72(8), 757-766. Web.
Halim, M., Foozy, C., Rahmi, I., & Mustapha, A. (2018). A review of live survey application: SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo. JOIV: International Journal on Informatics Visualization, 2(4-2), 309-312. Web.
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Lovatt, M., Eadie, D., Meier, P., Li, J., Bauld, L., Hastings, G., & Holmes, J. (2015). Lay epidemiology and the interpretation of low-risk drinking guidelines by adults in the United Kingdom. Addiction, 110(12), 1912-1919. Web.
McInroy, L. (2016). Pitfalls, potentials, and ethics of online survey research: LGBTQ and other marginalized and hard-to-access youths. Social Work Research, 40(2), 83-94. Web.
Mrug, S. (2010). Survey. In N. J. Salkind (Ed.), Encyclopedia of research design (pp. 1473-1476). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Pew Research Center. (2019). Questionnaire design. Web.
SurveyMonkey. (2019). Choose a plan that works for you. Web.
SurveyMonkey. (n.d.a). Hospital performance evaluation survey template. Web.
SurveyMonkey. (n.d.b). Smoking survey template. Web.
Tourangeau, R., & Yan, T. (2007). Sensitive questions in surveys. Psychological Bulletin, 133(5), 859-883. Web.
Trochim, W. M. K. (2006). Survey research. Web.