Friday, 23 December 2011

Efficient Surveys for Desired Results

“Can you please fill this questionnaire? It’s for a project. Your help will be really appreciated.”

For such requests, these are the responses that one generally gets:

1: “Oh! Can you come back after 5 minutes? I’m kind of busy right now.”
2: “Another survey? Oh no!”

Some students would just respond by asking for a pen and randomly filling it out without even reading the questions.

This is one situation that almost every student dreads but goes through during his/her university life. There are many reasons underlying this force of aversion from filling out surveys and questionnaires. It is a matter of disgrace for us that even the most renowned universities don’t teach their students basic researching skills be it primary or secondary research. Thus students are usually unaware of how precise and good questionnaires should be designed so as to get the right responses out of the targeted respondents. Here I have put together some dos and don’ts of a survey questionnaire and how to design effective ones.

1) Keep it precise: Nobody wants to fill out a questionnaire if it exceeds more than a page or two. People don’t generally appreciate filling out questionnaires that take more than 5 minutes of their time. If two questions overlap somewhere, combine them to form one question.

2) Avoid personal questions: Keep in mind that you are getting general responses of your target audience focused towards your research domain. Want to ask about monthly incomes, age or their area of residence? Trust me! “Bad idea”.

3) Choose close-ended questions: Many students usually forget the difference between interviews, focus groups and surveys. Interviews usually have open ended questions whereas surveys shouldn’t. A good survey will always have concise and close-ended questions for ease of audience. For instance if you wish to ask what places they usually prefer for hang-outs, it would be good to provide a list of options yourself like “cinema, cafĂ©, park etc.”

4) Do not use technical language: Whether you are a business, engineering or a medical student, it is advisable to use simple and easy to understand questions in your research. Using jargons and technical words will give you distorted results.

5) Provide sufficient information for understanding: So if you do want to ask about public opinion or focus on the qualitative analysis using rating scales, it is always courteous to explain them beforehand to avoid ambiguity. Thus if on your rating scale of 1 to 10, 1 means excellent then it would be better to mention how your scale works.

6) Divide it into parts: If your research focuses on multiple aspects then it is best to divide it into several sections each having relevant questions.

These are the key to designing a good questionnaire not just to facilitate respondents to respond but also when you start entering the data and analyzing the trends. Use these tips next time you start making a questionnaire and people won’t stop noticing how well it has been designed. Happy surveying :)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

False Islamic Standards

Being born in a conservative societal set up yet having a pair of sane parents is one thing I haven’t been able to figure out yet as to whether it is unfortunate or a blessing. Well let’s just get to the main point. Because I do not behave in the way most Muslims do doesn’t give them a right to stereotype me. The sad part is that we the Muslims have a tendency of justifying everything we do through our religion. And we aren’t any better than those jihadis or Taliban who have brought such disgrace to Islam.

I belong to family where religious practices are very strict and I am expected to abide by certain things due to religious obligations. And even when people know I’m 22 and responsible for my own doings, I am asked to do certain things. Let’s take praying and covering my head as an example. So I am compelled to cover my head just because it is an essential in my religion. But hey! Didn’t Allah say that elders are supposed to guide the kids and not impose stuff on them? Sadly I have started developing a disliking for such practices.

I happened to go to a family wedding a few months back when I was decently dressed (and fully covered) but stopped by a relative auntie clad in burqa and got lectured on how I dress. According to her standards, I was not covered the way I should have been and she didn’t even consider how I would feel after her pointing fingers at me like that in public. Later when I wept in front of my parents and disclosed the whole story they questioned her as to why she did that. And this is what she had to say:
“Well she was not observing purdah and it was my duty to tell her that. I would have been a sinner otherwise. Islam makes us responsible to tell people what’s right and stop them from indulging into wrong doings.”

This is just one instance out of the innumerable ones that I’ve come across so far. I felt like asking her later “What about Huqooq ul Ibad auntie?” But her ignorant and carefree attitude stopped me from doing so.

Islam has made it a compulsion on us to practice it promptly but is Islam only about praying and covering ourselves? Isn’t observing rights of our fellows an integral part of Islamic practices too? Some would argue here that Huqooq Ullah are more important but are they forgetting that Allah forgives us if we ask for forgiveness after committing such sins but doesn’t forgive us if we usurp fellows’ rights or utter heart-rending comments for them until they forgive us themselves? On what basis do you prioritize Islamic practices and beliefs?

Not just this. There are so many other actions of ours that we do and justify them through Islamic principles. Our feudal lords when marry multiple women respond by saying they are permitted to do so by Allah. Our men not letting us take professional careers give examples of Bibi Fatima quoting that she was a good mother, a good daughter and a good wife but forget that she was a mentor to the women of the entire Muslim Ummah too. Didn’t she take the role of a mentor to impart Islamic knowledge to Muslim women? Wasn’t she the most educated of all women at that point in time?

I worry a lot about how we the Muslims have come across such practices as a misinterpretation of Islamic laws and guidelines. Is making your women cover themselves and restricting them to home Islamic in any way? Is imposing religion on a mature person Islamic in any way? Is denying women their basic rights Islamic? People need to go in an in depth research of the Islamic teachings and way of life and then preach and pass Fatwas.

A piece of advice: Be a paragon of Islamic way of life yourself instead of just correcting others around and meddling into other peoples’ personal spaces and the world will start respecting us as the followers of the great SYSTEM Islam.