Questions can often be framed in such a way that the
respondent is guided towards selecting a particular response, even when that
response does not reflect the true state of affairs of interest to the
investigator. Box 7
gives an example.
Box 7. Example: Case study: Experience
in a Scottish survey.
An example is provided by a question used in a recent
Scottish survey in which respondents were asked in what year they had first
become aware of varroa infestation
of their colonies. The question was intended to discover how far in the past it
was when this parasite had first been detected in that area of the country,
since there are still remote areas of Scotland where it has not yet been
found. However some newly established
beekeepers interpreted this as meaning that they were expected to have
personally observed the parasite, and so were inclined to respond that the
parasite had “not yet been found” - a biased answer leading to an
over-optimistic interpretation of the extent of the parts of the country which
were still free of varroa.
Critical analysis of the original questions for possible loading, and
careful analysis of pilot survey results, with subsequent revision of the
questionnaire where necessary, are essential.