Research indicates that responds do not usually confront an interview with their minds focused on giving falsified answers. Marsden and Wright (2008) attribute misreporting that is common in social matter to social bias in such matters. There cases where respondents have a predetermined opinion on what the research question requires. As such, respondents endeavour to supply responses that suit the situation; regardless of what they know is right. Social desirability bias is known to cause distortion of trend lines during data analysis. When carrying out research on matters relating to social behaviour, social desirability bias is a major challenge to the accuracy of the resulting findings. This paper presents viable sources and implications of social desirability bias in a study aimed at determining how much time a diverse group of post graduate masters students spend on their academic work and the activities they undertake during this time.
The scope of the study revolves around an important social issue. The question of time management is very important to students. The choice of the study group makes the study vulnerable to social desirability bias. It is significant to underscore the composition of the respondents that the study targets. In choosing to carry out the study across a diverse group of post graduate masters students, the study acknowledges socio-economic variations in the group. It is the social dynamics that make some of the students full time students, some part-time students and so on. This signifies the presence of crucial variations in the available time for students to apportion to their academic work.
The study is not limited to students from a specific course. This makes it important to underscore the difference in time requirements for the different courses. Students pursuing science courses are expected to spend much time planning and taking their practical laboratory sessions. This is not the same with students from the other courses who only have to spend their time in the libraries or on the internet. This is an issue that is likely to create biasness in the responses that shall be given by the students. It will be critical for the researchers to consider this aspect when developing the structure of the interview questions (Strahan & Gerbasi 2007).
The most likely cause of social desirability bias in the study will arise from the knowledge that post graduate students are supposed to spend a considerable amount of time on their academic work. The students are required to carry out extensive research in their areas of specialisation. As such, there will be a tendency for students to avoid giving responses that imply any thing that contradicts this expectation. Students will want to present themselves as fully involved in their academic research work. This is what will please their professors and hence a major source of misreporting. As indicated in the analysis of the respondents, the students face different challenges which make it hard for some to have sufficient time for their academic work Toh, Lee & Hu 2006).
There are students who hate the way they spend their time. They allocate very little time to their academics; they would prefer to keep this fact as secret. To facilitate this, such students will give calculated responses so as to avoid attracting any attention. This is a major challenge that the researchers will have to identify so that a solution is sought for such a challenge. It would be vital for researchers to establish a mechanism for reducing the errors that would occur due this particular misreporting (Berzonsky 1992).
Social desirability bias can to a large extent be reduced through the use of self administered questionnaires. Marsden and Wright points out that personal interaction between the respondent and the interviewer during a face to face interview are a major contributor to social desirability bias. In the course of an interview, a respondent can look at the facial expression of the interviewer and establish what the interviewer would like to hear. To avoid this, it will be wise for the researchers to use self administered questionnaires. This will give the students the required confidence to report the actual time they spend on their academics weekly (Read, Adams & Dobson).
The researchers will also be able to avoid social desirability bias in the study by providing anonymity of the respondents on the questionnaires that will be self administered. This is another way of increasing the students’ confidence. It is only this way that the students will be sure that they will not be victimised at the end of the day. This will make it possible for students who think that the time they spend on their academics not to fear victimisation.