I'm stuck and need help on this:basically it's a survey and I need to explain how the survey would be effective or ineffective due to the list being outdated. Please help. A class project some...

I'm stuck and need help on this:basically it's a survey and I need to explain how the survey would be effective or ineffective due to the list being outdated. Please help.

A class project some years ago required telephone surveys of people 55 and older in order to determine their satisfaction with services available for people in that age group. The only list available was from an agency in the area serving a large number of senior citizens. The list was seriously outdated, some 5 years old, without recent updates. Think about the issues in this project. Submit your critique of the project. 

Expert Answers
Stephen Holliday eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For this answer, I will assume that your goal is to write a short argument essay--a critique, by definition, is an argument-- in which you argue either that the survey is effective or ineffective.  Because a critique is an analysis and assessment (that is, a determination of something's value), your first step is to make a list of your thoughts about the effectiveness of the survey and then to develop a thesis statement that sets forth your point of view.

I am going to suggest some elements that make the telephone survey, based on an outdated list,  a less-than-optimal way of establishing seniors' satisfaction.  First, you indicate that the source of the survey was an agency that serves seniors in the area--for the source of the survey to be credible, we would need to know whether the agency is public or private and whether that agency is known for good quality work or shoddy work.  The fact is, many social service agencies have been overworked for years, and compiling names for a telephone survey would be low on their priority list.  Second, as you note, the list was at least 5 years old.  Chances are, the names on the list, after 5 years, had decreased dramatically, thereby reducing the number of possible respondents to the point where the survey may not have had a statistically significant sample.  If the number of respondents is not statistically significant, the survey is essentially useless.  For a survey to be statistically significant, it is important to establish the number of respondents on the survey as opposed to the entire population of people 55 years or older in the survey area.  If the survey list had 500 names, for example, and the population of seniors is 2,000, and there were only 150 respondents, the survey would be statistically insignificant because the survey did not reach the threshold of 10%.  Since it is unlikely that you have this information, you can say that, without such information, you cannot even determine if the survey was valid.

Given the facts you have, at this point I would construct a thesis statement for the critique that sets forth the potential flaws in the survey, which would include seriously outdated information and the possibility that the survey did not include enough respondents to make it statistically significant. You can say with certainty that, in 5 years, the senior population would most likely have changed dramatically, and so the respondent group was probably a small percentage of the group whose names were on the list.  Another potential flaw in the survey lies in whether those who took the survey asked the respondent group the same questions in the same way.  If the survey itself is not uniform, the results are suspect.

I suggest that you construct a thesis with your version of the following: "Despite the fact that the survey names were provided by a social service agency that served the surveyed group of seniors, there are several problems that make the make the survey ineffective, including . . . ."  And then you use the points I've outlined above or others of your own, in your own words and in the order in which you want to present them.

chrisyhsun | Student

I think the previous response did an excellent job of describing the steps of constructing the type of essay you need, so I will focus less on that aspect and offer up a slightly different response to the paper.

In addition to the fact that the list is outdated, you might also want to consider any biases presented in how the data was collected. (Of course, if your teacher specified that you should only be discussing the time factor, then it would be best to stick with that topic.) However, the problem stated that the data was collected by an "agency in the area serving a large number of senior citizens". This could potentially lead to a bias for more satisfaction than dissatisfaction because if most of the senior citizens in the area are drawn towards that agency, maybe there are positive feelings associated with the group that would somehow transfer themselves into the data. On the flip side, perhaps it was a small town and that was the only service agency in which case they might have a terrible reputation but senior citizens still associate with them out of need. The point is that besides the time factor, the point that struck me while reading the scenario was this relationship between the older citizens and the agency. Depending on if there is more to the problem, this may be a path to explore.