The polling is the most common method of collecting basic information. With its help, almost 90% of all sociological data are received. In each case, the polling involves contacting the immediate participant and focuses at those aspects of the process that partly fall or do not fall for direct observation at all. There are two main types of sociological polling: questioning and interviewing.
The most common form of polling in the practice of applied sociology is the questionnaire polling. It can be group or individual.
A group questionnaire is a survey, used mainly in organizations (places of work, studies, etc.).
In the case of an individual questionnaire, the forms (questionnaires) are handed in at workplaces or at the respondents’ places of residence. Recently, a one-time polling has been widely disseminated (using electronic communications: telephone or e-mail).
A sociological questionnaire is a system of questions, united by a single research plan, aimed at revealing the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the object and the subject of analysis. Its purpose is to give reliable information. For this, it is necessary to know and observe a number of rules and principles of its construction, as well as the features of various issues. When drafting questionnaires, it is necessary to take into account that different socio-demographic groups of respondents (young and old, people with different backgrounds, etc.) should equally understand the question.
All the questions can be classified:
• according to a content (questions about the facts of consciousness, the facts of behavior and about the respondent’s person);
• according to a form (open, closed and semi-closed, direct and indirect);
• according to a function (basic and non-basic).
Questions about the facts of people's consciousness are aimed at identifying opinions, wishes, expectations, and plans for the future, etc. Questions about the facts of behavior reveal the actions, deeds and results of people's activities. Questions about the personality of the respondent reveal his personality characteristics (gender, age, etc.).
The question can be called closed if the questionnaire contains a complete set of answers. After reading them, the interviewee chooses only one that matches his opinion. Closed questions can be alternative and non-alternative. Alternatives suggest that the respondent can select only one answer option, and non-alternative ones - several variants of answers.
Open questions do not contain hints and do not "impose" a response to the respondent. They give the opportunity to express the opinion fully and to the smallest detail, so they contain much more information than closed questions.
Semi-closed questions. Here, along with a set of certain answers in the situation where it is impossible to choose the appropriate option from the proposed list, the respondent will be given the opportunity to express his opinion in free form. In such a way features of openness and closeness mix.
Direct and indirect questions. Sometimes the questions of the questionnaire require from the respondent to take a critical attitude to himself, to people around him, to evaluate negative phenomena of reality, etc. Such direct questions in a number of cases either remain unanswered, or contain inaccurate information. In such cases, questions formulated in an indirect form help the researcher. The respondent is offered an imaginary situation that does not require an assessment of his personal qualities or the circumstances of his activities.
The main questions of the questionnaire are aimed at collecting information about the content of the phenomenon being examined. Non-basic - to identify the addressee of the main question (questions-filters) and to check the sincerity of the answers (control questions).
Any questionnaire includes three main parts:
2) the content (main) part;
3) the final part (passport).
The introduction indicates who conducts the research, its purpose and objectives, the way of filling out the questionnaire, emphasizes the anonymous nature of its completion, and expresses gratitude for participating in the questionnaire. The instruction for completing the questionnaire is also attached to the introduction.
The passport (demographic part) contains information about the respondents in order to check the reliability of the information. These are questions related to gender, age, education, place of residence, social status and origin, work experience of the respondent, etc.
The compilation of the main part of the questionnaire has the special value, since this greatly depends on the success of the research.
The content of the questionnaire (the nature and types of questions asked, their order, the formalization of the supposed answers) is determined by the desire to obtain the most reliable information about the object under study. For this, it is necessary to be well-oriented in the system of questions on the basis of which the content of the questionnaire is formed. The formulation of the questions is the most difficult stage of the questionnaire creating.
When interviewing, the contact between the researcher and the respondent is carried out with the help of an interviewer who asks the questions provided by the researcher, organizes and directs the conversation with each person and records the received responses according to the instruction. This method of polling requires a lot of time and money than questioning, but at the same time, the reliability of the collected data increases by reducing the number of unanswered people and errors in completing the questionnaires.
The features of interviews are shown differently in its various organizational forms. Let’s consider them.
Interviews at the place of work, employment, in other words, in an office. It is most expedient when production or training collectives are the objects of studying and the subject of research is connected with production or educational matters.
The interview at the place of residence. It becomes preferable if the subject of the survey concerns such problems, which it is more convenient to talk about in an informal setting, free from the influence of official or educational relations.
In the applied sociology, three types of interviews are distinguished: formalized, focused and free.
Formalized interview is the most common type of interviewing. In this case, the communication between the interviewer and the respondent is strictly regulated by a detailed questionnaire and instructions for the interviewer. When using this type of interview, the interviewer is obliged to adhere to the wording of the questions and their sequence.
Focused interview is the next step leading to a decrease in the standardization of the interviewer's and interviewee's behavior. It aims to gather opinions, assessments about a particular situation or a phenomenon, its aftermath or causes. Respondents in this form of interviews are introduced in advance to the subject of the conversation. The questions for such an interview are also prepared beforehand, and their list is obligate for the interviewer: he or she can change their consistency and wording, but should receive information on each question.
The free interview is characterized by minimal standardization of the interviewer's behavior. This type of polling is used in those cases when the researcher starts to determine the problem of the study. A free interview is conducted without prepared in advance questionnaire or a developed conversation plan; only the topic of the interview is determined.