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March 26, 1973

Questionnaire Studies

Author Affiliations

Temple University Medical School Philadelphia

JAMA. 1973;223(13):1497. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220130043011

Questionnaire studies are old hat in the behavioral sciences. Many years ago excellent scientific work was done in attempting to solve the many problems these kinds of studies entailed. How to handle the nonrespondent, how to combine questions to get meaningful solutions to the problems posed, how to weight each respondent so that the overall response is representative of the target population, and how to collate answers so that they measure such nebulous concepts as attitudes, quality, and well-being, have been described very well in most behavioral science texts on the subject.

Enter the physician. He rediscovers the wheel. Without reading any of the background material concerned with questionnaire studies in other fields, he devises such instruments and tries to answer questions with arbitrarily drawn samples, ambiguously worded questions, improperly tabulated answers, and incorrectly analyzed data. Descriptions of these studies find their way into the medical literature not because anything