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On the Usefulness of Pretesting Vignettes in Exploratory Research

Jennifer Beck



Survey methodologists use vignettes as an evaluative tool for pretesting survey questionnaires. However, these fictional scenarios also lend themselves to exploratory, applied research about the topics upon which surveys are based. In this paper, I discuss the psychological framework for why vignettes are a useful tool for uncovering people’s judgments and decision-making processes. Researchers across multiple disciplines have used vignettes to determine how people make judgments and decisions across a variety of complex situations and potentially sensitive topics. As an example of how to use vignettes as an exploratory tool, I interpret findings from pretesting vignettes in light of what they reveal about judgments and decision making. More specifically, I present evidence that preliminarily reveals information about how kids and teens think about activities that are relevant to their vulnerability to Internet predators. These findings suggest several key variables for researchers to explore in an effort to improve education about internet crimes against children.

CITATION: Beck, Jennifer. (2010). On the Usefulness of Pretesting Vignettes in Exploratory Research. Statistical Research Division Research Report Series (Survey Methodology #2010-02). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Published online: January 21, 2010
Last revised: January 15, 2010

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010