Self-Report Techniques

Sometimes, we would like insight into participants' thoughts and opinions when conducting research. In these cases, we can use self-report techniques. These data collection methods rely on the information given by participants rather than gathered through observation; this can provide researchers with insight into their participants' internal processes.

Self-Report Techniques Self-Report Techniques

Create learning materials about Self-Report Techniques with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents
    • In this explanation, we will take a look at self-report techniques in psychology research.
    • We will focus on the use of questionnaires and interviews in research. For each self-report technique, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of these.
    • To finish off, we will look at the evaluating points for self-report techniques, including the strengths and criticisms of self-report techniques.

    Self-Report Techniques Psychology

    Several self-report techniques are used in psychology, such as questionnaires and interviews, to collect data. These techniques aim to allow researchers to get more information about a phenomenon from the source directly.

    Self-report techniques involve getting information directly from the source without experimenter interference. Diary entries, questionnaires and interviews are examples of self-report techniques. The questions, if asked, are usually pre-set to prevent bias issues.

    As the researcher collects information from the source, these techniques are known as primary data sources.

    Self-Report Questionnaire

    Questionnaires typically consist of a series of questions or prompts given to participants. They can be distributed and completed in various ways, such as physical sheets of paper, online forms, or other methods. Participants typically provide written responses, but there are also question types that don't require writing, such as scales.

    Thanks to modern technology, questionnaires don't have to be completed in person; this makes them relatively easy to conduct, cheap, and efficient.

    There are two types of questions - open (qualitative, allowing a wide range of responses, so they are rich in detail) and closed (participants must respond in a specific way as directed, so it is easier to analyse, although more rigid).

    An example of an open question would be, 'Why did you choose to unsubscribe from our mailing list?' while an example of a closed question would be, 'Tick all boxes that apply'.

    Self-Report Measures: Questionnaires

    There are a variety of types of closed questionnaires. Here are a few examples.

    Questionnaires: Likert Scale

    Likert scales provide a statement, and the participant has to tick a box showing the extent to which they agree or disagree. This is a simple way to collect qualitative data for easy analysis. This is because, rather than just asking a yes or no question, it allows for degrees of agreement.

    Self-Report Techniques A likert scale StudySmarterFig. 1. Likert scales are a response scale used in some questionnaires.

    A weakness of the Likert scale is that some people may have no opinion on a statement, and it can be difficult for researchers to interpret this information.

    Questionnaires: Ranked/Rating Scale

    Ranked/rating scales are questions that ask you to fill out, for example, boxes from one to ten indicating satisfaction with a product. It allows researchers to gather a lot of quantifiable information that can assist in the creation of valuable data.

    For example, it would be easy to create a data representation of the popularity of a TV show using the information that a ranked scale collects.

    A weakness of a ranked scale is that people's ideas of what is, for example, a 6/10 rating, may differ across participants. This will affect the validity, as results are inconsistent despite getting the same or similar answers.

    Questionnaires: Multiple/Fixed Choices

    Multiple choice questions have various pre-selected answers to choose from; this allows researchers to gather quantitative data easily. The responses and their proportionality can be easily represented.

    A disadvantage of this method is that the predetermined questions limit participants' responses. If participants feel that none of the responses applies to them, they typically can't respond. Some researchers can account for this by adding an option 'other' or allowing for an extended response.

    But, this can be hard to represent visually, and again; there's no real way to quantitate what 'other' actually means.

    Questionnaires: Semantic Differential Scale

    Semantic differential scales give participants a scale on which they can fill the boxes that correspond to their preferences or level of agreement. It is similar to the rating scale.

    These methods can gather nominal, interval, or ratio data. Nominal data refers to categorised data (think 'nominal = named').

    A questionnaire might collect information on the hair or eye colours of participants and this data could be represented as something like a pie chart or combined with other data to find correlations, etc.

    Interval data is data that can be categorised and ranked with equal distances between each point. Interval data does not have a true zero point.

    A typical example is temperature, as there is no true zero. Below zero degrees Celsius, there is minus one degree, minus two degrees, etc.

    Ratio data is the same as interval data, except there is a true zero.

    Some common examples are height and weight; zero is absolute - you can't be minus one centimetre tall.

    Interval and ratio data allow us to gather more information compared to nominal. For example, unlike nominal data, which might explore whether people like football or not, interval data allows us to explore to what extent people do or do not like football.

    Self-Report Questionnaire: Evaluation

    Let us look at the strengths and weaknesses of the questionnaires.

    Strengths of Questionnaires

    • Questionnaires are very cheap to conduct; this makes them an attractive method for researchers aiming to collect data on a large population, as they are great for statistical analysis.

    • Questionnaires are typically straightforward and can even be done online, which is convenient for both the researcher and the participant.

    • The anonymity and lack of face-to-face engagement offered by questionnaires may result in more honest answers than in interviews or studies set in social situations.

    Weaknesses of Questionnaires

    • Questionnaires often don't allow for much detail compared to interviews so they may lack validity.

    • Questionnaires such as the ranked scale may lack validity; someone's 6/10 may be equal to someone else's 7/10. There is no objective standard for what a 6/10 should be, and it may be too subjective. It does not allow the researcher to learn about the entirety of the individual thoughts and behaviours, which also presents issues with reliability.

    • Social desirability bias: depending on the question, a participant may not answer honestly as it will make them look 'bad', say if they were asked about their drinking habits. People may lie to make themselves look better.

    • Response bias: participants may choose one answer as they progress through the questions, which affects the results. They may get bored or feel like one response has been consistently applicable to them. Hence, they rush through the rest and automatically check the chosen response off, reducing the study's validity.

    Self-Report Design: Interviews

    Interviews consist of discussions between interviewers and interviewees.

    They can be conducted in a variety of ways, and these include:

    • Face-to-face.
    • Over the phone.
    • Online using services such as Skype.

    Interviews are unique because they allow two-way interaction between the researcher and the participant, opening more opportunities to get in-depth, individual responses and any clarifying information that may be needed.

    Self-Report Techniques, A man in a suit and a young woman take part in an interview, StudySmarterFig. 2. There are many types of interviews.

    There are three types of interviews; unstructured, semi-structured and structured. Let's take a look at each of them.

    Self-Report Design: Unstructured Interviews

    Unstructured interviews are conducted in a way that doesn't seem like an interview and resembles a more casual conversation. However, information is still being gathered by the researcher.

    This method's casual nature allows the interviewer to take control and conduct the interview as they see fit, including changing their strategy or the subject in response to new information; this improves validity.

    However, since the interview is not structured and details such as questions asked may differ, this method lacks reliability.

    Self-Report Design: Semi-structured Interviews

    Semi-structured interviews are the halfway point between unstructured and structured interviews. They have an informal element but also contain some structured questions like a structured interview would.

    This interview style has both the advantages and disadvantages of unstructured and structured interviews, and finding the right balance can be difficult.

    Self-Report Design: Structured Interviews

    Structured interviews are the most formal type of interview. The interviewer asks a set of predetermined questions in order. There is no conversation, as each interview is designed to be the same so that results can easily be compared.

    Because they are tightly structured and planned, structured interviews are reliable. However, they may lack validity due to their rigid nature.

    Sometimes, an exam task might be to design an interview or explain what you should consider when designing an interview:

    • When conducting an interview, there should always be a standardised process to avoid interviewer biases and increase reliability.
    • It should have a schedule with a list of questions you want to cover. Everyone should be asked the same questions so that the answers can be compared.
    • When interviewing a person, establishing some rapport beforehand is always helpful, creating a harmonious setting.
    • Remember always to remind the participants of the ethical concerns, first and foremost, e.g. that they can withdraw at any time.

    Self-Report Design: Evaluating Interviews

    Let us take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of interviews.

    Strengths of Interviews

    • Interviews allow researchers to collect far more information than questionnaires, often in greater detail. This increases the validity of the data they collect.

    • Interviews can, to an extent, be tailored to the participant. Different approaches may be needed when approaching certain subjects or certain types of participants. For example, a researcher may take a more casual approach to an interview with a younger group of participants.

    • Structured interviews offer standardised procedures, so the process is easy to replicate, and unstructured interviews offer flexibility. Participants are free to answer as they please, increasing the validity of the results.

    • Interviews can direct the participant to give responses that they may otherwise struggle to articulate. For example, when police use cognitive interviews to assess crime witnesses, they can often trigger memories in the participant that they would otherwise forget.

    Weaknesses of Interviews

    • Interviews take much longer than questionnaires. Researchers may get more qualitative information from them than they would from questionnaires. Still, it would take very long to acquire data on large populations compared to the speed at which questionnaires can do so.

    • Structured interviews are pretty rigid, and if a participant has an interesting answer, the inability to explore this response may prove frustrating.

    • Unstructured interviews are challenging to analyse reliably sometimes, as responses can vary dramatically, so attaining consistent responses across multiple interviews is difficult. Standardised schedules help with this but do not solve the issue.

    • Interviews can be costly, as they typically require an interviewer to have some training or qualification. The interviewee may need to be compensated for their time and travel costs.

    • Social desirability bias: if a question is complex or sensitive, participants may not want to answer honestly, affecting the results' validity. Building rapport may help alleviate this issue, but it may not solve it.

    Self-Report Examples: Real-Life Application

    Some real-life applications in research of self-report techniques are as follows:

    • Bandura et al. (1961) used a questionnaire to record the aggression levels of nursery school children according to their teachers.

    • The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) is a Likert scale that has been used and updated since the 1990s.

    • Freud (1909) conducted unstructured interviews in his research on little Hans.

    • Brown (1986) used semi-structured interviews in his work to ask patients about their life experiences, any symptoms of depression, their view of themselves, and what support systems they had.

    These examples highlight the utility of self-report techniques in research!

    Advantages of Self-Report Measures

    • Self-report methods allow researchers to see into the minds of their participants. This gives them more information than observation alone and can contextualise data collected from experiments, making the data gathered more valid.

    • Self-report methods are pretty inexpensive and don't require much time or effort. Due to this, it is easy to gather data with interviews and questionnaires from a large sample size, making it easier to generalise results.

    • Self-report encompasses many different methods; this makes them versatile, to the benefit of researchers who can use various methods when needed.

    Limitation of Self-Report Techniques in Psychology

    • Methods such as questionnaires can easily be misunderstood, and participants may also give inaccurate answers, leading to invalid data.

    • In self-report methods such as structured interviews, participants may feel uncomfortable or nervous, altering their responses. In unstructured interviews, participants may like or feel intimidated by the interviewer, leading to acquiescence bias. This happens when participants agree with the statements more than they normally would.

    • In the case of more extensive questionnaires, especially if conducted over the internet, it can be challenging to ensure participants' demographic information and contact them for follow-ups if needed.

    Self-Report Techniques - Key takeaways

    • Self-report techniques are data techniques aimed at allowing researchers to get more information about a phenomenon directly from the source.
    • The two main methods are questionnaires and interviews.
    • Questionnaires can have open or closed questions.
    • There are many types of closed questions. Likert scales, ranked scales, semantic differential scales and multiple-choice questionnaires are all used.
    • Interviews can be unstructured, semi-structured or structured.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Report Techniques

    What is a limitation of self-report technique?

    Self-report methods such as questionnaires are open to social desirability bias. This means that participants may not answer honestly, so they do not appear 'bad'.

    What is a self report technique in psychology?

    Self-report techniques involve getting information directly from the source without experimenter interference. Diary entries, questionnaires and interviews are examples of self-report methods. The questions, if asked, are usually pre-set to prevent bias issues. 

    Why do psychologists use self-report techniques?

    Psychologists use self-report techniques because they allow them to gather more information than just observations. It gives an insight into the personal thoughts and feelings of the participants.

    What is an example of a self-report measure?

    An example of a self-report measure would be using a questionnaire to gather participants' opinions.

    Are self reports qualitative or quantitative?

    Self-reports can be qualitative or quantitative, depending n the method used. Qualitative data can be obtained from open-ended questions and interviews, and quantitative data can be obtained from questionnaires with closed questions.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Self-report scales involve the researcher both asking direct questions to a person and completing the questions themselves. True or false? 

    Ranking questions are where the responder must answer whether they: Strongly agree, Agree, Unsure, Disagree, Strongly disagree. True or false? 

    Which is not a type of self-report measure? 

    Next
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Self-Report Techniques Teachers

    • 12 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App