International research endeavors require data collection instruments in the forms of questionnaires. A questionnaire is research instrument, which consists of a series of questions intended to collect data from the respondents. The biggest challenge facing modern researchers is developing and implementing a questionnaire that is suitable for international respondents. Researchers have extensively worked on the field of questionnaire design in the 21st century due to high standards expected from the questionnaires (Blessing, Chakrabarti & Blessing, 2009, p. 17). International standards for a research and questionnaire design affect the processes of data collection and analysis that are sometimes different from the researcher’ s home country. Data collection instruments differ across countries in terms content, process and requirements.
According to Stevenson (2013), questionnaires are advantageous over other types of surveys in international research (7). This is because they lead to standardized answers that simplify the process of data compilation. The use of the questionnaire in cross-border research is limited by the fact that the respondents must have the ability to read and respond to the questions. Differences in time zones and geographical distances limit the modes of questionnaire administration. The costs of research in foreign countries are usually increased by translation and transportation expenses. Ethical standards in a country of interest may be strict, thus making the researcher to adjust the questionnaire in order to meet the required research standards (Sloan, 2011, p. 22). Devising and implementing a questionnaire for international respondents is a tedious process that requires expertise in research.
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Coordinating and Conducting Research in Diverse Environments
The diversities of socio-cultural and economic environment in which research is being conducted are rapidly increasing (Global Science Forum, 2011, p. 9). This implies that international researchers will need to put extra efforts in developing the capability to conduct and co-ordinate research spanning a range of environmental contexts and research questions. International researchers will need to adopt advanced mechanisms of tailoring research questions and adapt proper research instruments and procedures that are suitable at the global scale. This goes beyond translation and development of multi-lingual questionnaires, and requires excellent skills in designing multi-site studies that constitute a common core and purpose while simultaneously addressing country-specific issues (Coker, 2003, p. 22).
Expertise required in devising and implementing multi-site studies in diverse geographical settings is rapidly increasing. International researchers may easily identify research questions and objectives that are common across sites; however, they need to pay attention to the operationalization of research constructs, design of the research instruments, sampling procedures and data collection conducted at each site (Bringle, Hatcher & Jones, 2011). Definitions and constructs used in one setting are not necessarily suitable in another. Sampling procedures, research instruments and data collection procedures may incorporate bias, requiring periodical reformulations in order to adapt to diverse social contexts.
The trends in modern international research involve using a team constituting of members and from various cultural backgrounds and sites. The main reason for using local populations in the research is helping to strike a balance between the need for local input and adaptation to the conditions of the local sites to ensure comparability and equivalence across sites (Coker, 2003, p. 19). This requires the researchers from all sites to participate in early stages of formulation of research questions, research design and selecting questionnaire items, and deciding on the methods of data collection (Dillman, 2000, p. 23). These crucial aspects of research may be adversely affected due to diverse viewpoints brought about by the large number of participants. The researcher may lose his or her original research idea as people from various sites may oppose the researcher’s ways of questionnaire structures and data collection procedures. At a supra-country level, capabilities and skills in managing and designing a research study spanning multiple environments are likely to become increasingly tedious.
Questionnaire Designing and Establishment
The development, testing and evaluating a questionnaire for a research study represents a process. Questionnaire development involves writing preliminary questions that the researcher intends the respondents to answer. Testing and evaluating are necessary in the research instrument development since they boost the potential of the questionnaire to collect dependable data (Ketchen, & Bergh, 2007, p. 23). The different phases of this process take place along a continuum, which consists of separate sets of linked activities. The main phases of questionnaire development include questionnaire development (QD&T) and testing, and questionnaire evaluation (QE) (Karen & U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002, p. 3). Valid research processes must follow these two preliminary phases in order to device research instruments that are up to date. QD&T and QE tighten the process of devising questionnaires for cross-border research.
Questionnaire development and research involves activities that lead to the design of the questionnaire. Testing refers to quantitative and qualitative research with a small and non-generalizable numbers of respondents. The results obtained from pretesting are used to make changes to the questionnaire and the whole process of data collection. Researchers perform questionnaire evaluation after the instruments have been used to collect data. Questionnaire evaluation occurs following a pilot test. The researchers feed back the resulting data from an evaluation if they confirm that the changes are warranted. These phases are not always distinct and iterative characterised by numerous feedback loops (Coker, 2003, p. 32). The researcher undertaking research in a foreign country may find it difficult to make periodical trips to the country of research. The researcher must prepare the questionnaires, do piloting research and evaluate the questionnaires prior to commencement of research. This would force the researcher to invest huge sums of finances for transport and communication during the trips.
Developing Requirements for the Questionnaire
International researchers are usually faced with challenges when deciding the requirements of the research instruments. The requirements for the questionnaire can be classified into two categories; these are the content for the survey, and design constraints and non-content aspects of the questionnaire (Karen & U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002, p. 4). Determining survey content is done in consultation with or obtaining information from the potential respondents. The examples of this type of information include inquiring whether the prospective respondents are familiar with the terminology of the questionnaire. These consultations lead to significant changes in questions, especially in international research. Changes in questionnaire content become necessary if the results demonstrate a mismatch between planned concepts and available data.
The process of developing requirements for the questionnaire requires experts in the foreign country. Internal subject matter experts work in the survey or program offices to assist international researchers in the research studies (Stevenson, 2013, p. 21). The internal subject matter experts determine the requirements of the questionnaire, propose and construct the items of the questionnaire, carry out question reviews for conceptual and substantive accuracy and may contribute to data collection and analysis. Survey methodologists provide advice and recommendations on questionnaire construction and testing (Peterson, 2000). Sponsors may sometimes reject or modify the recommendations from the consultants in case they fail to collaborate effectively. This poses challenges to the researcher arising from lack of cooperation. The researcher may end up making too many alterations and hinder the general progress of the research.
Language Barrier in International Research
Communication is the critical aspect to consider in any research undertaking. The researcher must develop the questionnaire in a language that the respondents must be able to understand in order to ensure correct responses (Stevenson, 2013, p. 19). Countries of the world differ in types of languages they use; they differ in both local and national languages. For example, most African countries use both Kiswahili and English as the national languages of communication. Illiterate people do not speak nor write in English. Foreign researchers in these countries face problems of communication with these populations especially when doing research in rural areas in African countries (Dillman, Smyth, Christian, & Dillman, 2009, p. 31). Researchers may find it tedious to do questionnaire translations for doing research in a country with several ethnic languages. If the research must be conducted among the illiterate people, then the researcher must seek the assistance of the translators. Paying one translator is not only costly, but also time consuming.
International researchers prefer doing research studies in urban areas and institutions of higher learning. Most of the urban settlers and people in higher learning institutions are literate since they can read and write. However, the objectives of the current research dictate the geographical scope of the study. Additionally, accents in verbal communication create communication barriers during the research process (Taupitz, & Weschka, 2009, p. 13). Most international researchers fill their questionnaires through making phone calls. These researchers must scrutinize the choice of words for the questionnaire and ensure that the respondents with varied accents can easily understand and respond (Brace, 2004, p. 8). For example, both Kenyans and Briton speak similar English. The Kenyan may not easily understand a Briton speaking in his English. It takes time and repetitions for people from these two countries to communicate and reach a conclusion. The numbers of the questions the researcher develops are dictated by the amount of time each respondent will be available for the phone call (Taupitz & Weschka, 2009). This limits the amount of information that the researcher will collect due to reduced number of questionnaire items. The researcher spends extra time to summarize the questionnaire and ensure that it is brief and aimed at collecting specific data.
Methods of Administering Questionnaires
The most commonly used methods of data collection include postal delivery, telephone, electronic and personally administered. Cross-border researchers find problems in selecting the most effective mode of delivery since each of them are subject to a variety of constraints. Postal delivery is requires low costs per response, but it is subject to delays due to prevalence of natural disasters in the international arena (Hantrais, 2009, p. 33). Questionnaires can be conducted swiftly under telephone to ensure high response rates. Telephone calls are, however, prone to social desirability biases than other modes. Personally administered questionnaires are more detailed and lead collection of comprehensive information as opposed to the limits of telephone and paper. International researchers find it difficult to collect data using this method since it is extremely expensive and time consuming to train and maintain the research assistants (Coker, 2003, p. 30).
Electronic methods require incorporating technological advances into research design and methodology. International researchers need to apply the latest technological developments in questionnaire dissemination and data collection for effective research design. The main advantage of electronic methods of data collection is to dramatically reduce the time that researchers need to collect data across geographic distances. It is crucial, however, to note that the application of sophisticated technological techniques is subject to certain limitations across the globe (Stevenson, 2013, p. 19). This arises from development of technological infrastructure and technological sophistication of the respondents. Advanced computer technology such as Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) and Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) are not developed in all countries of the world due to widespread digital gap (Rialp, 2009, p. 14). Not all the sample has opportunities to access these electronic forms, and therefore the results may not be a representative of the target population. As the internet evolves, it dramatically changes the way international research is done.
Conducting and coordinating international research is subject to several constraints due to diverse environmental settings. Expertise required in devising and implementing multi-site studies in diverse geographical settings is rapidly increasing. The main areas where international researchers need to pay attention to include operationalization of research constructs, design of the research instruments, sampling and data collection procedures at various sites (Stevens, 2006, p. 39). Foreign researchers need to use teams in order to strike a balance between the need for local input and adaptation to the conditions of the local sites to ensure comparability and equivalence across sites. Teams are not very efficient in cross-border research due to diverse viewpoints brought about by the large number of participants.
The procedure of developing, testing and evaluating a questionnaire for research study represents a process characterized by several iterations. The main phases of questionnaire development include questionnaire development (QD&T) and testing, and questionnaire evaluation (QE) (Karen & U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002, p. 3). The researcher must prepare the questionnaires, do piloting research, and evaluate the questionnaires prior to commencement of research. This would force the researcher to invest huge sums of finances for transport and communication during the trips.
International researchers are usually faced with challenges of deciding the requirements of the research instruments. The researcher must do several consultations, which may lead to alterations in the questionnaire design and data collection procedures (Brace, 2004, p. 8). The process of developing requirements for the questionnaire requires experts in the foreign country, which may pose challenges to the researcher arising from lack of cooperation between sponsors and consultants. Communication is the critical aspect to consider in any research undertaking, but the language barrier in foreign countries adversely affects the process of research. Methods of administering the questionnaire dictate the type of the questionnaire that the researcher develops (Brace, 2004, p. 5). The most commonly used methods of data collection include postal delivery, telephone, electronic and personally administered. International researchers prefer using electronic method; however, use of sophisticated technological techniques is subject to several limitations across the world.
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