Repository logo

The reliability and validity of questionnaire delivery mode in social science research : a comparative study investigating disclosure rates of sensitive behaviours amongst university students, comparing three different questionnaire methods.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Social Science research often investigates sensitive behaviours and the potential impact they may have on broader societal functioning. Sensitive behaviours are those that are concerned with private, stressful or sacred issues, and which may elicit emotional responses. Valid and reliable methods for obtaining accurate sensitive information are essential in order to generate accurate prevalence rates of risky behaviours. This research was concerned with using an experimental cross-sectional between subjects research design in order to compare three Questionnaire Delivery Modes (QDMs) in obtaining sensitive information from a University student population. The specific sensitive behaviours of concern were those linked to risky sexual practices and alcohol consumption. Disclosure rates of sensitive behaviours were used to compare the QDMs. A further subsidiary aim of this research was to explore the difference in social desirability bias and experience of participation across the three different Questionnaire Delivery Modes. Results of this research indicate that the Unmatched Count Technique (UCT) resulted in higher disclosure rates for some of the sensitive behaviour items. The Audio Computer- Assisted Self Interviewing (ACASI) and the Self Report Questionnaire (SRQ) revealed similar disclosure rates amongst most items. Results reveal no significant difference in social desirability bias amongst all three modes. The experience of participation indicated a mild preference for the Unmatched Count Technique. Results also reveal high prevalence rates of risky sexual behaviour linked to alcohol use, amongst a student population. These results have major implications for health care providers and intervention strategies. This research reveals that the Unmatched Count Technique may be a preferential method for obtaining sensitive information, in a reliable and valid manner. These findings have important implications for future research in the area of sensitive behaviours.


Master of Arts in Educational Psychology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2014.


Social sciences -- Research., Social sciences -- Fieldwork., Questionnaires -- Validity., Questionnaires -- Reliability., Theses -- Psychology., Questionnaire Delivery Modes (QDMs)