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Self-Report Design

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Self-Report Design

Typically, a self-report design is used in psychology research when researchers want to get data from many participants in a short amount of time. When conducting research, relying on a researcher's interpretation of the participant's behaviour and the reasoning behind their behaviour is not always best. This can be subject to several issues; the researcher may miss something or misinterpret an action completely.

A self-report design is a data collection method that relies on participants giving answers about themselves. The questions are usually pre-set.

This means that the experimenter does not interfere with the participants during the experiment, i.e. they are a non-experimental design.

Self Report Design, a man filling in a questionnaire, StudySmarterSelf-report designs, freepik.com/pch.vector

Self-report in psychology

Self-report designs are used in psychology research for:

  • Independent research designs - sometimes only questionnaires are used in research. This fairly simple research design is used when the experimenter does not need to manipulate the variables (experimental design). Questionnaires collect data on readily available information.
  • Conjunction with other research designs - self-report designs are often used in conjunction with other methods such as experimental research. This may be used because it's an easy and fast way to collect data. However, not all of the information needed to explain a phenomenon can be attained from a self-report study.

An example research scenario that uses both an experimental design and a self-report design may be investigating differences in brain structures in people having depression and those not suffering from it. The research design may include measuring differences in brain structures using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI; experimental design). Furthermore, psychometric tests such as Beck's Depression Intervention may be used to measure depression.

Beck's Depression Inventory is a self-report questionnaire example.

Self-report methods

Questionnaires and interviews typically rely on self-report for data collection. However, they can vary in the collection methods, which also affects the type of data being collected.

Questionnaires

The type of questions included in questionnaires depends on what type of data the researcher wishes to collect.

Close-ended questions are used when the researcher wants to collect quantitative data. On the other hand, open-ended questions are used when the researcher wants to collect qualitative data.

Here are a few examples of different types of questions used in questionnaires:

  • Close-ended questions: these are questions defined by a fixed response. This means that participants are required to select an answer that has been listed in the questionnaire by the researcher. Typically, they are formed as multiple-choice questions.

Which of the following best describes your current status?

  1. Married
  2. Civil partnership
  3. Single
  4. Divorced
  5. Other

Another example of close-ended questions is the Likert scale.

The Likert scale is a psychometric rating scale used to measure variables. The answers are predefined, and it is often used to measure how much a person agrees or disagrees with a sentiment or statement.

All swans are white.

  1. Strongly agree
  2. Somewhat agree
  3. Not sure
  4. Somewhat disagree
  5. Strongly disagree
  • Open-ended questions: these are questions where the participants can answer a question however they wish to.

    Describe how you feel after you have finished an assignment?

  • Ranking scale: these are questions that ask you to rate something on a scale, usually 1-10, but this can be disguised by using different levels of agreement.

Self-Report Design, rating scale, StudySmarterGrading scale, freepik.com/storyset

Interviews

There are different types of interviews. Therefore, the type of interview used determines if the researcher will use a self-report design.

The types of interviews used in psychology research are:

1. Structured interview

Before the interview, the researcher decides what questions will be asked (predetermined) and asks all participants the same questions in the same order (this is called a standardised procedure, increasing the internal reliability of research designs). The questions are typically close-ended. It is not like a natural conversation.

Structured interviews have a self-report design.

2. Semi-structured interview

A few of the questions asked in this type of interview are predetermined. The researcher can spontaneously ask questions based on previous responses participants have given. This interview usually uses open- and close-ended questions. It combines the benefits of a structured and unstructured interview.

Parts of semi-structured interviews have a self-report design.

3. Unstructured interview

The questions are not pre-set in unstructured interviews. This type of interview is more like a conversation between the researcher and the participant, who mostly leads the discussion. The researcher may intervene or re-direct the conversation if it is going off-topic. This is somewhat unreliable as it cannot be adequately repeated, but it is more natural and allows full exploration of interesting tangents.

Unstructured interviews are not a self-report design.

self- report design, Interview between two people, StudySmarterInterview between two people, freepik.com/pch.vector

Diaries

Researchers may use diaries as a data collection method. This is also a form of a self-report design because it relies on participants reporting their thoughts, feelings and activities.

The use of diaries in psychology research may rely on using previous entries, or participants may be asked to make diary entries throughout an experiment.

In this hypothetical research scenario, participants with depression were divided into two groups. Group 1 received the typical cognitive behavioural intervention, and Group 2 received a refined form of cognitive behavioural therapy.

Participants were asked to keep a diary throughout and three weeks after the experiment. This was to identify if participants' attitudes and symptoms changed after the intervention by exploring their innermost thoughts and feelings based on their private answers.

Evaluation of self-report designs

Similar to other research designs used in psychology, there are strengths and limitations to using self-report designs in research. The researcher needs to consider these and ensure they will not lead to invalid or unreliable findings. Additionally, the researcher must ensure that a self-report design is the most appropriate research design to explore the phenomena of interest.

Strengths of self-report designs

The strengths of self-report designs are:

  • They are relatively cheap, especially if the questionnaires are sent to participants, who then send them back. This avoids finding a place to conduct an experiment and all the costs associated with it.
  • It is easier to get information from a diverse, representative sample of the target population.

In terms of questionnaires, responses can be collected over the phone, online, or via mail. So it is easier to collect data from different people (different locations, ethnicities, professions). This means that the study's findings are likely representative and generalisable.

  • It is not always time-consuming.
  • The researcher does not interfere, so experimenter bias is less likely to affect the results.

Weaknesses of self-report designs

The weaknesses of self-report design are:

  • Occasionally, qualitative data is collected, and this can lead to experimenter bias during analysis
  • As questions are predetermined, it is difficult for researchers to build on unexpected results, which provides a limited amount of information
  • Methods that rely on fixed-response may lead to participants' answers not reflecting how they truly feel. This can reduce the validity of findings.
  • Social desirability - the participant's expectations could influence answers in questionnaires or interviews. More specifically, by how they think someone in society should answer. This affects the validity of the results.
  • confidentiality issues can arise, as these self-reports often discuss sensitive information.

Self-Report Design - Key takeaways

  • A self-report design is a data collection method that relies on participants giving answers about themselves. The questions are usually pre-set.
  • Examples of self-report designs are:
    • questionnaires, interviews (structured and partially semi-structured) and diaries
  • The strengths of self-report designs are:
    • relatively cheap, easy to gather data from a large and representative sample, not time-consuming, and there is less likelihood of experimenter bias influencing the study
  • The weaknesses of self-report designs are:
    • potential bias during analysis can affect the validity of the results, they may provide a limited amount of information, and pre-defined answers may not reflect how participants truly feel.

Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Report Design

A self-report design is a data collection method that relies on participants giving answers about themselves. The questions are usually pre-set.

A self-report design can be qualitative or quantitative. It depends on the type of question (open- versus close-ended questions).

An example of a self-report measure is questionnaires. 

The advantages of self-report studies are: 

  • they are relatively cheap
  • easy to gather data from a large and representative sample
  • not time-consuming
  • there is less likelihood of experimenter bias influencing the study


A self-report design is a non-experimental design. 

Final Self-Report Design Quiz

Question

Which of the following is an accurate description of a self-report design? 

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Answer

Experimental design 

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Question

What is the definition of a self-report design? 

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Answer

A self-report design is a data collection method that relies on participants giving answers about themself. The questions are usually pre-set before them being given to participants. 

Show question

Question

What type of data do self-report designs produce? 

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Answer

Qualitative 

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Question

Which of the following is a self-report design? 

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Answer

Unstructured interviews

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Question

How are diaries used to collect data? 

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Answer

The use of diaries in psychology research may rely on using previous entries that participants have made. Or, participants may be asked to make diary entries throughout an experiment. 

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Question

Why are diaries considered a self-report design? 

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Answer

Diaries are a self-report design because they rely on participants reporting their thoughts, feelings and activities.

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Question

What type of self-report design does Beck's Depression Inventory use? 

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Answer

Becks Depression Inventory is a self-report questionnaire example. 

Show question

Question

What are the strengths of using a self-report design? 

Show answer

Answer

The advantages of self-report studies are: 

  • they are relatively cheap
  • easy to gather data from a large and representative sample
  • not time-consuming
  • there is less likelihood of experimenter bias influencing the study

Show question

Question

What are the weaknesses of using a self-report design? 

Show answer

Answer

The weaknesses of using a self-report design are:

  • participants may respond in a socially desirable way 
  • fixed-responses may not represent how participants truly feel 
  • they may provide a limited amount of information 

Show question

Question

What type of response would be pre-determined in a question asking about an individuals ethnicity? 

Show answer

Answer

Multiple-choice

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Question

What type of response would be pre-determined in a question asking the likelihood of recommending a product? 

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Answer

Likert scale 

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Question

What are the different methods researchers can use to get responses from questionnaires? 

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Answer

In terms of questionnaires, responses can be collected over the phone, online, or via mail.

Show question

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