what are the advantages and disadvantages of self report data?

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what are the advantages and disadvantages of self report data?

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May 25th, 2015


  • You get the respondents views directly
  • A good way to measure a participants perception of the thing you are measuring
  • Sometimes it only makes sense to measure something by asking the participant about it (opinions, for instance)
  • Observational and objective data are not always possible to obtain – for example, life-history studies
  • They are quick and simple to administer in many cases (e.g., questionnaires), no complicated technology is required
  • Self-reporting is the most inexpensive method.


  • People may lie or skew their answers to make themselves look better.  For example, people tend to report higher happiness scores when the researcher is of the opposite sex!
  • People may not have as much self-knowledge as the researchers assume (for example, psychoanalysts would argue that many feelings and much information is unconscious and protected by defense mechanism)
  • Technically, they measure a perceptions of a construct rather than measuring it directly, and researchers must assume that this perception is an accurate enough reflection of the ‘real’ thing to be useful
  • Self-reporting has the problem of over- estimating.
  • Inaccurate self-reporting can be caused by recall bias, social desirability bias and errors in self-observation.
  • The time-frame of the recollection can affect the accuracy of the recall. Specifying the time period can help.
  • Wording of questions, the way a question is asked and the skills of the interviewer can either facilitate or be detrimental to gaining accurate responses.
  • Being non-judgmental, giving a preamble before questions, and asking about specific behaviors can help validity.


1. Berg, B. L., Lune, H., & Lune, H. (2004). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (Vol. 5).       Boston, MA: Pearson.

2. Chan, D. (2009). So why ask me? Are self-report data really that bad. Statistical and methodological myths and urban legends: Doctrine, verity and fable in the organizational and social sciences, 309-336.

3. Stone, A. A., Bachrach, C. A., Jobe, J. B., Kurtzman, H. S., & Cain, V. S. (Eds.). (1999). The science of self-report: Implications for research and practice. Psychology Press.

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK55447/

May 25th, 2015

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