This report describes and analyzes the outcomes of a survey pilot for the graduate students academic stress survey. The survey was piloted in a local university that offers graduate courses. A convenience sample of two participants was obtained through the researcher’s personal contacts. The criterion used is that participants should be graduate students in two different fields.
There was a total two participants selected for the pilot. One is a Caucasian male (Participant A) who is taking up an MBA while the other is a Caucasian female taking up a Master of Arts in Sociology (Participant B). Both agreed to answer the survey questionnaire and participate in one-on-one interviews about their experience in answering the survey.
Participant A completed the survey in 19 minutes. This meant that Participant A spent an average of about 34 seconds per question. On the other hand, Participant B completed the survey in 27 minutes, which means that she spent about 48 seconds per question.
The interview focused on a number of elements of the survey questionnaire. First, the participants were asked if they had any trouble with any of the questions. Several questions were regarded as problematic. Under the frustrations section, the Participant B complained about the excessive use of the word “frustration.” She said that the term was too abstract to be used in the actual items. She said that she needed more direction as to what frustration actually meant in the items. She made the same comments on the conflicts and pressures variables. In particular, she said she felt lost in the conflicts variable because all of the items have the world “conflicts” in them. For example, in the item “I have experienced conflicts in performing well at both study and work.” She questioned what this item was supposed to mean. She suggested that it could have been better phrased as “I have difficulty prioritizing tasks for work and school.” This way, there is no need to say “conflict” yet the item clearly shows a conflict. According to Participant B, many of the other items should be changed in this manner. Similarly, Participant A claimed that some of the questions were unclear. Under the frustrations variable, he mentioned “I feel frustrated due to managing academic material.” He felt lost as to what “managing academic material” meant. Under the conflicts variable, he questioned the use of the word “conflict” in “I have experienced conflicts in attending classes.” He asked what conflict is supposed to mean in the question, “is it conflicts with people in class, or conflict with wanting to go to class, or conflicts with the class itself?” Under the pressures variable, Participant A pointed out that “I have experienced pressures due to getting high grades for graduate study” seems incorrectly phrased. He said the question seems to be asking if he was pressured by having high grades, and he said that if he does not think that having high grades would create pressure. “Euphoria maybe, but not pressure,” he said.
Both participants were comfortable with the five-point scale. However, Participant B commented that she felt that the scale made it too easy for respondents to choose “occasionally.” She said that in her case, she said that she experienced most of the items described in some occasions, so she answered occasionally for most items (22 out of 34). Although Participant A said that the scale was alright, his answers also indicated that he answered occasionally for most of the questions (26 out of 34).
In terms of whether the questions measured what they were supposed to measure. The participants did not have much comment. However, Participant B pointed out that for the item “I have experienced lack of sources (money for tuition, books, etc.),” frustration does not seem to be what it is measuring. She said that people have deficiencies in resources all the time, but not all of them are frustrated by this. The respondents said that none of the items seemed loaded to them. Both respondents agreed that the survey’s length was just right. They also had no problems in reading and understanding the directions.
Overall, the respondents’ suggestions for improving the questionnaire are as follows. First, refrain from using the same word as the variable being measured in the items. Attempt to describe the experiences of frustration, pressure and conflict rather than just stating the words. Second, consider revising the scale to remove “occasionally” from the options so that it would not be so easy for respondents to choose an answer. Third, remove some of the items that do not seem to be associated directly with the variable.