Miscellaneous thought 1.
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a long time friend of mine. When we stopped and calculated (which we don’t do very often), we realized that we have know each other since 1981. We met at the first AEA (only it wasn’t AEA then) conference in Austin, TX. I was a graduate student; my friend was a practicing professional/academic. Although we were initially talking about other things evaluation; I asked my friend to look at an evaluation form I was developing. I truly believe that having other eyes (a pilot if you will) view the document helps. It certainly did in this case. I feel really good about the form. In the course of the conversation, my friend advocated strongly for a odd numbered scales. My friend had good reasons, specifically
1) It tends to force more comparisons on the respondents; and
2) if you haven’t given me a neutral point I tend to mess up the scale on purpose because you are limiting my ability to tell you what I am thinking.
I, of course, had an opposing view (rule number 8–question authority). I said, ” My personal preference is an even number scale to avoid a mid-point. This is important because I want to know if the framework (of the program in question) I provided worked well with the group and a mid-point would provide the respondent with a neutral point of view, not a working or not working opinion. An even number (in my case four points) can be divided into working and not working halves. When I’m offered a middle point, I tend to circle that because folks really don’t want to know what I’m thinking. By giving me an opt out/neutral/neither for or against option they are not asking my opinion or view point.”
Recently, I came across an aea365 post on just this topic. Although this specific post was talking about Likert scales, it applies to all scaling that uses a range of numbers (as my friend pointed out). The authors sum up their views with this comment, “There isn’t a simple rule regarding when to use odd or even, ultimately that decision should be informed by (a) your survey topic, (b) what you know about your respondents, (c) how you plan to administer the survey, and (d) your purpose. Take time to consider these four elements coupled with the advantages and disadvantages of odd/even, and you will likely reach a decision that works best for you.” (Certainly knowing my friend like I do, I would be suspicious of responses that my friend submitted.) Although they list advantages and disadvantages for odd and even responses, I think there are other advantages and disadvantages that they did not mentioned yet are summed up in their concluding sentence.
Miscellaneous thought 2.
I’m reading the new edition of Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA). This has always been my go to book for QDA and I was very sad when I learned that both of the original authors had died. The new author, Johnny Saldana (who is also the author of The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers), talks (in the third person plural, active voice) about being a pragmatic realist. That is an interesting concept. They (because the new author includes the previous authors in his statement) say “that social phenomena exist not only in the mind but also in the world–and that some reasonably stable relationships can be found among the idiosyncratic messiness of life.” Although I had never used those exact words before, I agree. It is nice to know the label that applies to my world view. Life is full of idiosyncratic messiness; probably why I think systems thinking is so important. I’m reading this volume because I’ve been asked to write the review of one of my favorite books. We will see if I can get through it between now and July 1 when the draft of the review is due. Probably aught to pair it with Saldana’s other book; won’t happen between now and July 1.