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The Factorial Survey Approach: Using Vignettes to Capture Variation in Judgments About Violence

By: & Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Our research project used the factorial survey method to explore an idea that developed out of a class discussion on social learning theory. In particular, we were interested in the concept of "definitions" and how they should be measured. The discussion led us to ask whether people vary in their judgments of different acts involving the use of force. Are all uses of force, "violence"? Using the factorial survey approach, we looked at whether people varied in how they defined an act of interpersonal violence and whether characteristics of the act and the people involved would shape these perceptions. Our findings suggest that people do vary in how they see uses of force, and importantly that characteristics of the act itself as well as the gender of the people involved, shape these perceptions. Beyond our findings, we also learned the value of using factorial surveys and a hard lesson about the need for clarity. In this case study, students will learn what the factorial survey approach is, and when it is useful. Most importantly though, this case study will allow students to think about the benefits of this approach and the challenges that it presents for studying judgments.

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