Although designing an appropriate survey is never easy, the researcher benefits a lot from the process including mistakes. Before completing the final draft, the team sent out a pilot study among a small sample of students, both in China and US, in order to improve its design.
First, the pilot study shows that too many open-ended questions might result in the low quality of answers; participants tend to skip the questions because they might be exhausted of writing, which makes the researcher aware that the non-response bias can skew the results. Meanwhile, some of the participants regard the survey as disorganized; it jumps from one topic to another and does not have a clear structure.
Since then, the researcher focuses on quantifying most the questions to avoid non-response, while maintaining the balance of quantitative and qualitative questions as the numerical data cannot reflect all the details of what the participants believe. The researcher also learns to concentrate on the issues that she wants to press on. The latest questionnaire is divided into two section: the first one will concentrate on the participants’ environmental opinions on the city where they live, whereas the second one focuses on their opinions towards global environmental protection.
After the pilot study, the researcher decides to focus on collecting data mainly from local students in universities at Chongqing, China, leaving the US students sample for next semester. So far, it has collected over 130 surveys across different campuses. Among them, 129 participants are Chinese native speakers, age ranging from 18 to 30, and around 56% of the participants are female. In addition, there are 48% of 113 responses claiming that they have been living in Chongqing over 4 years, while 22% of them just stay in the city between 1 to 2 years.
Accordingly, around 40% out of the 112 responses state that they just come to study in Chongqing over 1 or 2 years, while 30% have been staying in local universities at least 5 and more years. Although the participants are across disciplines, it is noted that engineering major occupies almost 50% of the participants since they mostly come from the most famous and largest Engineering-led college in the city – Chongqing University.
Although the data collection is still processing, there are two particular results that have captured the researcher’s attention. In one of the researchers’ hypothesis, it assumes that Chinese students might favor “economic development” over “environmental protection” because China is still considered as a developing country which has to prioritize economy as its development goal. However, the survey shows that 73 out of 102 responses value environmental protection first in terms of better development in the city. When it comes to reasons, several responses suggest that the environment is the foundation for long-term development, both economically and socially. One of the participants even goes further questioning if the environmental protection cannot be promised, there is no point in advancing economy. More importantly, even for those putting economy ahead of the environment, many participants seem to agree that sustainability is the key to the future.
At the end of the survey, when it asks which one, local environment [protection] and global environment [protection], should be prioritized, 67 out of 104 responses prioritize the local environment. However, it does not mean the participants care less about environmental issues globally. In the following question, several participants associate these two factors together. Many responses also mention the term “small”, indicating that starting from fractions can eventually lead to the global environment protection. Therefore, the participants seem to believe that protecting the local environment can benefit the world globally.