Employing Questionnaires in terms of a Constructivist Epistemological Stance: Reconsidering Researchers’ Involvement in the Unfolding of Social Life

  • Norma Ruth Arlene Romm Department of Adult Education and Youth Development University of South Africa Pretoria, South Africa


In this article, I delve into what it might mean to employ questionnaires without regarding them simply as a way of attempting to discern relationships of correlation or causality between defined variables (as in positivist and post-positivist conceptions of questionnaires). I shall consider the implications of researchers using questionnaires on the basis of alternative paradigmatic orientations. I shall discuss, in particular, interpretivist stances and more constructively-oriented stances (as qualitatively-oriented paradigmatic positions) with reference to different understandings of questionnaire use. I shall also reflect on how qualitative positions that embrace a constructivist epistemological stance can lead to a redirection of questionnaires in relation to more “usual” (post-positivist-directed) usages. In the course of the discussion I make a case, drawing on a version of constructivism, for researchers taking responsibility for their involvement—no matter what methods are used—in the unfolding of the social worlds of which research is a part. Taking into account the constructivist epistemological understanding that questionnaires—as well as other research methods—contribute to the construction of responses rather than merely “finding” responses from research participants, I suggest that some responsibility needs to be taken by those employing questionnaires for the potential social impact of these on research participants as well as wider audiences.

Author Biography

Norma Ruth Arlene Romm, Department of Adult Education and Youth Development University of South Africa Pretoria, South Africa
Norma RA Romm (DLitt et Phil, Sociology) is a Professor in the Department of Adult Education and Youth Development in the College of Education at the University of South Africa. She is author of The Methodologies of Positivism and Marxism (1991); Accountability in Social Research (2001); New Racism (2010); People's Education in Theoretical Perspective (with V. McKay 1992); Diversity Management (with R. Flood 1996); and Assessment of the Impact of HIV and AIDS in the Informal Economy of Zambia (with V. McKay 2006). She has co-edited two books – Social Theory (with M. Sarakinsky 1994) and Critical Systems Thinking (with R. Flood 1996) – and published over 85 research articles.