What's a Survey and/or Interview?
Like profits to any company, data is the lifeblood of a C.A.R. project. It's that simple. Surveys and interviews generate the numbers and information used to drive the C.A.R. (Ha! Get it?!)
All C.A.R. projects will need at least one survey. (Multiple surveys are permitted.)Interviews are optional but remain a good way of digging dipper and further exploring certain answers on a survey.
Both methods of collecting data are discussed below.
The survey you create needs to generate numbers and data for your study.
No numbers = major problem.
Let's say you want to know the impact that sports have on high school students. You decide to make a survey. (Remember... start this process early and not necessarily when you've finished your Literature Review!) Just remember this:
Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.
We LOVE to share their opinions (thanks, 1st Amendment!)... but we are also inherently lazy. This means if you come at someone with a six page survey with 25 questions, you instantly just eliminated half of those willing to fill it out.
Surveys being handed out to your peers should NOT be more than the front and back of one sheet of paper. Limit the number of questions to no more than 15. In terms of the type of questions to ask, try to avoid too many Yes/No questions and too many "open response" questions.
Yes/No questions can give you a good "pulse" about your topic, but they don't really dig below the surface. Open response questions are problematic because there aren't any options for people to pick from. An open response question asks something like, "Why are sports important?" and has a giant space underneath it. This is a valuable question - however - just not when it could leave you with 50 different answers. Fifty different answers makes it hard to generate data and draw conclusions. Instead, give the participant three to five possible choices from which to choose. When tabulating your results, it will be MUCH easier for you to tally, and you will get answers showing that 25 of the 50 people surveyed (or 50%) chose Answer A. And take that data and run with it.
Another helpful survey question is one that asks the participant to state whether they agree or disagree with a particular statement. For instance, you write: "Bullying is the number one cause of suicide among American teenagers today." Beneath that you then have the following options: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. Again, this will give you excellent data since you will now be able to say that XX% of those polled Strongly Agreed with that statement or XX% Disagreed with that statement. (You can offer other options like "No Opinion" or "I Don't Know" to such questions.)
You should always title your survey, provide a brief explanation of why you are conducting it, and include your research question. Say something to the effect of "I am completing a Collaborative Action Research project for Dr. Hartnell's Honors' American History class. My research question is: blah blah blah blah?") This also adds an air of professionalism to it.
It is best to keep these surveys anonymous, although you could always provide a line for their name and write the word "Optional" next to it. Generally speaking, people have a tendency to be "more honest" when their names aren't attached to the opinion. (Sort of like people who lurk in in the on-line shadows and hide behind screen names. Oh, you have an opinion? Tell me your real name and let's see if you still feel that way...) Other key identifiers are gender, age, race, and grade-level. This can provide additional avenues for your number crunching.
Dr. Hartnell must review (and approve) all surveys. All surveys that are being distributed MUST be typed. Once approved, Dr. Hartnell will make copies and - depending on when the request is made - place these surveys in the mailboxes of eight teachers to have their Advisory students complete. Ideally, there would be two surveys per grade (i.e., two freshmen, two sophomore, two junior, and two senior). Be aware that some teachers will forget to do it, some will refuse to do it, and sometimes students in their Advisories will choose not to do it. That's all part of the draw, but it, again, adds more authenticity to the process.
Surveys for specific populations of students (like ALL freshmen or ALL math students) are a much larger undertaking and will require a lot more time, planning, and execution. Electronic surveys (e.g. SurveyMonkey), surveys for teachers, or surveys for administrators are also permissible. However, Dr. Hartnell will still need to approve these before ANY data is collected.
"Straw polls" are permitted but should only be used for quick data collection in order to give the researcher an idea of whether or not to pursue a topic. A straw poll is where you approach people in the hallway, at lunch, or on the street and ask them brief survey questions, like "Have you had Wendy's Pretzel Burger?" You then record their answer (usually in the form of a tally mark) or you ask a group to raise their hand to answer "Yes". Again, straw polls should only be used to informally collect data. This informal data then serves as a "jumping off" point for you to create a more in-depth and formal survey about, in this example, fast-food consumption.
You will need to include an electronic copy of your survey(s) in the Appendix section of your C.A.R. final paper. The tally sheet(s) will also need to be included. This means if your survey was made up of multiple-choice questions, you need a copy of the survey with how many selected A, B, C, etc. If you further broke your survey down by grade-level, gender, race, and so forth, additional sheets with those tallies will also need to be included. (Often times the tallies are just typed onto a blank copy of the survey or placed on an itemized sheet by question number. Nothing overly fancy.) Questions that prompted extended response answers do not need to be submitted.
(NOTE: When you are done tallying your surveys... do NOT throw them away! All surveys will need to be kept for four years. You are not responsible for retaining this material. Rather, bring it in to class, and Dr. Hartnell will put it in a filing cabinet. After four years, all surveys will be shredded. This is done in the event any "future" researcher wishes to look at your raw numbers or if concerns arise over the validity of what you reported.)
Any specific questions concerning your survey may be directed at Dr. Hartnell during class.
You are not required to conduct any interviews, but, depending on the data you collect, some follow-up kind of questions may arise. If you gave the option of the person writing her/his name on the survey... and if s/he did... and assuming the name isn't "Dick Hurtz"... then you can contact them to see if they would be willing to be interviewed. If they agree, then schedule a time that works best for THEM... and make it happen.
Interviews with classmates, teachers, administration, and other community members are all permitted (upon approval by Dr. Hartnell). Face-to-face interviews are preferred, but, if you land a phone or Skype interview with someone across the country, those are acceptable.
Like with the survey, you need to adhere to the K.I.S.S. rule with your interview. A good interview writes itself, but, have around five questions in order to keep the conversation moving along. (Nothing beats awkward silence with your school's principal or the local Fire Chief...) Again, try to avoid Yes/No questions, and, if this interview is in response to their survey answers, bring along their survey so you can reference it. Your original interview questions must be approved by Dr. Hartnell. Obviously, questions that come up during the interview or in response to an answer given during your conversation do not need prior approval.
Record the interview (either with a phone or some other kind of taping device) so you don't get bogged down trying to write their every word. However, still take scrupulous notes in the event your recording device fails. ALWAYS inform the person being interviewed that you are recording their answers and that these responses might wind up in your C.A.R. final paper.
When the interview has concluded, thank the individual for their time and inform them that should their quotes be used in your research, they are welcome to request a copy of the final product.
Like with the survey, a copy of your questions, the interviewee's answers, and a transcript of the full interview itself (meaning the dialogue between the two of you) must be included in your Appendix. (This includes interview material that did not end up being used in your final paper.) Unlike the survey, you do not need to hand in a copy of their responses since these are already included in your Appendix.
Any specific questions concerning your interview may be directed at Dr. Hartnell during class.