Quality and Quantity

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 113–125 | Cite as

``Is There Anything Else You Would Like to Tell Us'' – Methodological Issues in the Use of Free-Text Comments from Postal Surveys

  • Jo Garcia
  • Julie Evans
  • Maggie Reshaw

Abstract

Free-text comments are often invited at the end of self-completion questionnaires,yet text books provide no guidance on how these might be used. We describe avariety of ways in which free-text comments can be used, drawing on two examples.

An Audit Commission study of NHS maternity care included a national samplesurvey of 3570 women who gave birth in June and July 1995. At the end of thequestionnaire women were asked: Is there anything else you would like to tellus about your care while you were pregnant or since you have had your baby.

The United Kingdom Medical Careers Research Group conducts whole-cohort longitudinal studies of graduates from all UK medical schools. At the end of each survey doctors are invited to write comments on ``any aspect of your training,career choices or work''.

The authors discuss the inherent limitations of free-text comments, the relativemerits of quantifying the frequencies of themes, and the ways in which free-textcomments can be used to enhance survey analysis. They conclude that whilefree-text comments are no substitute for properly designed research, they arenevertheless valuable in understanding and illustrating participants' surveyresponses, and in suggesting topics for further research.

Free-text comments self-completion questionnaires surveys open questions methodology maternity care doctors' careers 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Abramson, J. H. (1979). Survey Methods in Community Medicine. Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone.Google Scholar
  2. Audit Commission (1997). First Class Delivery. London: Audit Commission.Google Scholar
  3. Bell, J. (1993). Doing Your Research Project. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Black, N., Brazier, J., Fitzpatrick, R. & Reeves, B. (eds) (1998). Health Services Research Methods: A Guide to Best Practice. London: BMJ Books.Google Scholar
  5. Bowling, A. (1997). Research Methods in Health: Investigating Health and Health Services. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brynner, J. & Stribley, K. M. (eds) (1979). Social Research: Principles and Procedures. New York: OU and The Longman Inc.Google Scholar
  7. Chamberlain, G., Wraight, A. & Steer, P. (eds) (1993). Pain and Its Relief in Childbirth. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, L. & Manion, L. (1980). Research Methods in Education. London: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  9. Crombie, I. K. & Davies, H. T. O. (1996). Research in Health Care. Chichester, Wiley.Google Scholar
  10. De Vaus, D. A. (1991). Surveys in Social Research, 3rd edn. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  11. Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (eds) (1998). Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Dey, I. (1993). Qualitative Data Analysis: A User-Friendly Guide for Social Scientists. London, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Evans, J., Goldacre, M. J. & Lambert, T. W. (2000). Views of UK medical graduates about flexible and part-time working in medicine: a qualitative study. Medical Education 34: 355–362.Google Scholar
  14. Evans, J., Lambert, T. W. & Goldacre, M. J. (2002a). GP recruitment and retention: a qualitative analysis of doctors' comments about training for and working in general practice. Royal College of General Practitioners Occasional Paper 83.Google Scholar
  15. Evans, J., Goldacre, M. J. & Lambert, T.W. (2002b). Views of junior doctors about the Specialist Registrar (SpR) training scheme: a qualitative study of UK medical graduates. Medical Education, in press.Google Scholar
  16. Fink, A (ed) (1995). The Survey Kit. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.Google Scholar
  17. Garcia, J., Redshaw, M., Fitzsimons, B. & Keene, J. (1998). First Class Delivery: A National Survey of Women's Views of Maternity Care. London: Audit Commission.Google Scholar
  18. Gilbert, N. (ed) (1993). Researching Social Life. London: SageGoogle Scholar
  19. Glaser, B. G. & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  20. Goldacre, M. J., Lambert, T. W. & Parkhouse, J. (1998). Views of doctors in the United Kingdom about their own professional position and the National Health Service reforms. Journal of Public Health Medicine 20: 86–92.Google Scholar
  21. Lambert, T.W., Goldacre, M. J. & Evans, J. (2000). Views of junior doctors about their work: survey of qualifiers of 1993 and 1996 from United Kingdom medical schools. Medical Education 34: 348–354.Google Scholar
  22. Mason, V. (1989). Women's Experiences of Maternity Care: A Survey Manual, London: OPCS.Google Scholar
  23. Miles, M. B. & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis, 2nd edn. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Moser, C. A. & Kalton, G. (1971). Survey Methods in Social Investigation. Aldershot, Hants: Dartmouth Publishing Company Ltd.Google Scholar
  25. Nation, J. R. (1997). Research Methods. New Jersey, Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  26. Parkhouse, J. (1991). Doctors' Careers. Aims and Experiences of Medical Graduates. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. QSR International Pty Ltd. (2000). N5 (Non-numerical Unstructured Data Indexing Searching & Theorizing) Qualitative Data Analysis Program (Version 5.0). Melbourne, Australia: QSR International Pty Ltd.Google Scholar
  28. Redshaw, M., Harris, A. & Ingram, J. (1996). Delivering Neonatal Care: The Neonatal Unit as a Working Environment. London HMSO.Google Scholar
  29. Robson, C. (1993). Real World Research. Oxford, Blackwell.Google Scholar
  30. Silverman, D. (1993). Interpreting Qualitative Data: Methods for Analysing Talk, Text and Interaction. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Silverman, D. (2000). Doing Qualitative Research: A Practical Handbook. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. Smith, H. W. (1975). Strategies of Social Research: The Methodological imagination. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jo Garcia
    • 1
  • Julie Evans
    • 2
  • Maggie Reshaw
    • 2
  1. 1.National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Health SciencesOxford UniversityOxfordU.K
  2. 2.UK Medical Careers Research GroupOxford UniversityU.K

Personalised recommendations