If respondents can interpret a question in various
ways, the returns made will not be easy to interpret and the analysis can
become difficult or impossible to conduct. Box 6 gives an example. The way to
minimise ambiguity is, first of all, to ensure that the early drafts of a
questionnaire are always criticised by an independent evaluator before they are
used, and once all obvious ambiguities have been removed, to pilot the
questionnaire (see section 7.7.) in order to try to detect any remaining
problems with the questions.
Box 6. Example:
Colony management in Canada.
is provided by recent COLOSS surveys in which beekeepers were asked about
increases and decreases during a certain timeframe. All Canadian respondents
who reported increases or decreases during the defined wintering period were
contacted to verify whether such changes truly reflected the dynamics of the
wintering population. Invariably, these changes reflected spring-time activities (typically
splitting colonies), where these activities could occur in warmer areas of the
country prior to the defined end date of the wintering period. Moreover, these
changes were not reflected in total colony counts at the end of the wintering
period. The question was clear about the timeframe, but a substantial number of
beekeepers ignored this information (van der Zee et al., 2012).