Blog 2: Pollution and Cultures: Data Collection (China)

Survey Design

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.

 

Sample

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.

 

Data Analysis

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.

Pollution and Culture: Environmental Views of College Students in Two Cultures (China and America)

Pollution is not only a matter of nature-society argument, but also a matter of culture; pollution consists of shared ideas or values about environmental concerns, expressed informally in customs or formally in policy-making. Yet, the cultural variation of environmental values has not been received sufficient attention. Is there a difference between the two environmental cultures? How large is the difference? Can the differences be measured? How do the experiences of living in metropolitan cities impact on individuals’ environmental views?

In terms of the questions, the study proposes to follow both researchers’ interests in China and US comparing these two countries’ environmental views, focusing on the college students in two major metropolitan cities: Chongqing (China) and New York City (United States). The two cities, one in southwest China, the other in northeast US, are home to millions of people. While New York has been at the center of global flows of capital, goods, and information, Chongqing, traditionally an industrious city, just started a new chapter 20 years ago. The historical developments both on national and local scale of the two cities have deeply constructed their residents especially for the younger generation’s social recognition.

Although the sample of college students is not representative of the population, they are young and in the process of becoming well-educated in an era of globalization. They are also constantly being exposed to the global flow of information from media, perhaps more aware and concerned about local and global environmental issues than the general population in China and America. Since some students grow up in the city, while others just move to the city to attend university, so we will be able to collect a variety of views that students bring with them from surrounding regions. In this light, college students are an ideal sample population for this study.

The study will construct an online survey using Qualtrics, to be administered in English and in Chinese to a sample of students in Chongqing and in New York City. This can allow us to collect and manage large amounts of comparable data from individuals across different universities in both cities. The students in both cultures will be presented the same select number of environmental issues, such as global warming, pollution, environment policies, etc. It is to find out whether there are any significant correlations between variables. Furthermore, the survey answers contain both standardized quantitative as well as qualitative data, in order to observe the individuality between respondents’ perspectives across a representative range of social and cultural backgrounds, exploring the authentic voices of students from China or US and setting their voices into wider social contexts.

This research is one step towards knowing how social scientists observe and understand the world. During the process of constant revising the questionnaire designs, with Professor Pajo’s guidelines and supports, I start to train myself to think like scholars: what results am I expecting to gain? How does our hypothesis affect the questionnaire designs? Does that question fully represent the research’s interests? As the study gradually develops, I am able to adjust my approach and prepare for intellectual challenges.

Working out data collection and analysis has also been a major goal for me to participate in the project. Research so far allows me to grasp a more in depth foundation for quantitative data techniques; I have learnt to use Qualtrics and explored how it can benefit my future study. Meanwhile, since the questionnaire contains qualitative data, I will also expect to apply qualitative analysis that I have gained from my anthropology class into practice. As a result, the project can give the opportunity to prepare myself for the future academic study and research.