Bad questionnaires, gender and ethnicity: When researchers achieve profundity by mistake

By Gordon Rugg

My usual response to badly assembled questionnaires involves a rant, followed by a dissection of the methodological issues involved and of various relevant bodies of theory.

Sometimes, though, a questionnaire manages to achieve a level of badness so extreme that it transcends its own awfulness.

Today’s example is one of those. It’s a question from an unidentified questionnaire. It’s asking about sexuality. It offers one option which you don’t usually see in this context. Admittedly, it’s probably the result of a copy and paste error, but that’s a minor detail. (Yes, I’m being ironic there…)

Anyway, here it is, in all its blighted majesty…

hispanic gender

Beneath the humour, there are actually some deep and interesting questions about how and why humans categorise themselves and each other. Some of those questions have been in the public eye recently because of the case of Rachel Dolezal. Just how do we decide about ethnicity and gender and a pile of other categories that can have major effects on people’s lives?

I’ll blog about this topic in later articles. For now, though, I’ll quietly enjoy the experience of a bad questionnaire providing some fairly harmless entertainment, and raising some (probably unintended) thought-provoking questions.

Notes and links

There’s more about the theory behind this article in my latest book:

Blind Spot, by Gordon Rugg with Joseph D’Agnese

I’ve blogged about categorisation and gender here:

Overviews of the articles on this blog:


3 thoughts on “Bad questionnaires, gender and ethnicity: When researchers achieve profundity by mistake

  1. Haha Gordon – thanks for a great example for the misuse of categorisations on forms. It made me chuckle. Maybe this form was designed to evoke critical thinking about gender and ethnicity?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.