Employing Questionnaires in terms of a Constructivist Epistemological Stance: Reconsidering Researchers’ Involvement in the Unfolding of Social Life
In this article, I delve into what it might mean to employ questionnaires without regarding them simply as a way of attempting to discern relationships of correlation or causality between defined variables (as in positivist and post-positivist conceptions of questionnaires). I shall consider the implications of researchers using questionnaires on the basis of alternative paradigmatic orientations. I shall discuss, in particular, interpretivist stances and more constructively-oriented stances (as qualitatively-oriented paradigmatic positions) with reference to different understandings of questionnaire use. I shall also reflect on how qualitative positions that embrace a constructivist epistemological stance can lead to a redirection of questionnaires in relation to more “usual” (post-positivist-directed) usages. In the course of the discussion I make a case, drawing on a version of constructivism, for researchers taking responsibility for their involvement—no matter what methods are used—in the unfolding of the social worlds of which research is a part. Taking into account the constructivist epistemological understanding that questionnaires—as well as other research methods—contribute to the construction of responses rather than merely “finding” responses from research participants, I suggest that some responsibility needs to be taken by those employing questionnaires for the potential social impact of these on research participants as well as wider audiences.