SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Hardy, Ben and Ford, L. R. (2014) 'It's Not Me, It's You: Miscomprehension in Surveys.' Organizational Research Methods, 17 (2). pp. 138-162.

Full text not available from this repository.


The ubiquity of surveys in organizational research means that their quality is of paramount importance. Commonly this has been addressed through the use of sophisticated statistical approaches with scant attention paid to item comprehension. Linguistic theory suggests that while everyone may understand an item, they may comprehend it in different ways. We explore this in two studies in which we administered three published scales and asked respondents to indicate what they believed the items meant, and a third study that replicated the results with an additional scale. These demonstrate three forms of miscomprehension: instructional (where instructions are not followed), sentential (where the syntax of a sentence is enriched or depleted as it is interpreted), and lexical (where different meanings of words are deployed). These differences in comprehension are not appreciable using conventional statistical analyses yet can produce significantly different results and cause respondents to tap into different concepts. These results suggest that item interpretation is a significant source of error, which has been hitherto neglected in the organizational literature. We suggest remedies and directions for future research.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: survey research, quantitative research, construct validation procedures
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Finance & Management
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > School of Finance and Management
ISSN: 10944281
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2015 10:28

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item