Sunday, August 25, 2013

Research questionnaire

Over several instances of taking the dog for a walk, I've been thinking about the questionnaire which I will be using for my doctoral research. In the background, there is also the work which I am currently doing for the Occupational Psychologist regarding our aptitude exam - calculating standard deviations and item analysis. 

It became clear to me the other day that the questionnaire can be divided into two logical sections: the first section gets data regarding the various dimensions that I wish to check (ie person's age, experience with ERP, level of formal education, department) and the second level gets data regarding the user's work habits. At the end, I intend to run correlation analyses on the work habits to see which dimensions cause an affect in the work habits. I realised a few days ago that I need to formalise the work habits section by giving a score which would reflect the level of 'end user computing' (EUC). I haven't checked the questions which I have developed so far, but I think that they don't give me a quantitative value but rather qualitative data.

Developing this thread; I thought that it would be a good idea to try and incorporate within the research questionnaires a competency exam for Excel. Instead of having questions like 'Do you use the IF function in your spreadsheets (yes/no)?', I could have a question like
When you enter data into a cell and press the Enter key on the keyboard, the cursor will move to ...
  1. The cell below the cell where you entered the data
  2. The cell to the right of the cell where you entered the data
  3. It will not move
  4. The formula bar so that you can check your data
  5. Not sure
Having such questions in the questionnaire will allow me to assign a value to the user's competency in Excel, and then I can see whether there is any correlation between this value and the user's personal data.

Yesterday evening, after walking the dog, I started googling 'excel competency test' and found several interesting sites. I continued looking until I found a multiple choice questionnaire which was exactly what I was looking for (the above question comes from this questionnaire).

I'm not sure whether I took the test purposely giving wrong answers (so that the feedback to the exam would give me the correct answers) or whether I tried to answer the exam honestly. Anyway, I achieved a score of 10 out of 17, which is possibly higher than I had expected, although maybe I was confusing this test with another which I tried, in which I didn't get a single question correct. This second questionnaire wouldn't be very useful for my purposes, as I need a spread of values, but the first questionnaire seems at first sight to be good.

I will translate the questions into Hebrew, put them into a program and then test them out on people at work. This way I can fine tune the competency part of my research questionnaire.

The above question reminds me of another piece of the puzzle that is called a thesis: at some stage, I want to include some historical data regarding spreadsheets. 'Everybody' knows that the first computer spreadsheet program was called 'VisiCalc' which was written around 1978 (or was it 1976?) for the Apple 2 computer (in fact, it was the 'killer app' for this computer and caused millions to buy the computer). The developers weren't able to port VisiCalc successfully to the IBM PC; the original spreadsheet leader was Lotus 1-2-3. Excel's birth and success are linked to that of Windows which didn't really take off until 1986-9. I remembered that on the PDP-11, we had some kind of spreadsheet program in about 1984 which was called 'Saturn-Calc'. I went looking for clues about this program the other day and actually managed to locate its author, with whom I have exchanged a few emails. Anyway, I came across the author in a mail which he sent to the development team of Open Office, detailing an option in Saturn-Calc which allowed the user to choose to which cell the cursor would go after pressing 'Enter'; the developers thought that this would confuse users so decided to go with Excel's behaviour, which is to go to the cell below the cell where the data had been entered. 

So the answer to the above question is 1.

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