Evaluating Survey Questions: A Comparison of Methods

This study compares five techniques to evaluate survey questions — expert reviews, cognitive interviews, quantitative measures of reliability and validity, and error rates from latent class models. It is the first such comparison that includes both quantitative and qualitative methods. We examined several sets of items, each consisting of three questions intended to measure the same underlying construct. We found low consistency across the methods in how they rank ordered the items within each set. Still, there was considerable agreement between the expert ratings and the latent class method and between the cognitive interviews and the validity estimates. Overall, the methods yield different and sometimes contradictory conclusions with regard to the 15 items pretested. The findings raise the issue of whether results from different testing methods should agree.