Knowing people's reasons for a particular belief or action can be important to those wishing to influence them.

It is quite easy to ask, 'Why do you do that? ... buy slimming aids? ... read a newspaper?' or 'Why do you think this? ... like/dislike your local public house?' The difficulty lies in answering this kind of question. It is often hard to explain fully why one does or thinks a particular thing. If asked, 'Why are you reading this particular book?' it is probable that you can give a reason quite readily. It is usual to explain behaviour, when asked, using only one reason. You may be reading this book because you have a particular problem at work, which you hope this book will help to solve, but there will be other, less immediate, reasons. Maybe you are preparing for a job change, or trying to impress your boss. Probably you have reasons relevant only to your own situation._

This illustrates another problem with questions about motive: the answers are likely to be so diverse that they are difficult to compare and analyse. The analysis is inevitably subjective and the results are impressionistic rather than certain.

To produce quantitative data about motives, possible reasons for behaviour can be explored using small-scale qualitative techniques such as group discussions or depth interviews (discussed in Sections 6.2.1 and 6.2.4). From these, the categories of reason most relevant to the objectives of the survey can be determined. Specific questions, designed to measure how many people share these motives, can then be included in a representative sample survey which will produce quantifiable results.

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Online Survey Champion

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