Using Vignettes in Survey Research

Vignettes have been used in survey research for years, and in a variety of settings and with many different populations. A 'vignette' can be more commonly termed as a hypothetical story or situation inserted into a survey, and it is often used to elicit information about values, beliefs and perceived societal norms from participants.  Respondents react to what they read (or see if it is a video insertion) see happening in the story, rather than answering a vague question about, "in general, do you feel..."  More recently, video vignettes have been incorporated into web surveys.

Besides having a specific instance to comment on, if used properly, utilizing vignettes in your survey work can also allow you to ask tougher than normal survey questions. For instance, items about perceived racial or class bias, in an nonthreatening format.

This technique is very common in surveys of health providers, like medical doctors and nurses, because stories are a common teaching tool used in medical training settings. So for example when surveying a population of chiropractors or dentists, opening up your survey ideas to the use of a vignette might be a good idea, since those populations are accustomed to that approach through their training.

Incorporating vignettes can be a little tricky. It's important to keep the length of the story as brief as possible so you don't loose the attention of your respondents. After all, they aren't taking the GRE's!

However, it is also important to include as much detail into the vignette as possible, so respondents are able to answer your dependent questions. Asking no more than 5 follow-up questions for one vignette is ideal.

For more on the use of vignettes in surveys go to Harvard University's research on the topic.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Crimes in Design Webinar
Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter