Using vignettes in a wareness and attitudinal research

Nancy E. Schoenberg, Hege Ravdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

221 Scopus citations


This article describes the use of vignettes, or hypothetical scenarios, with semi-structured follow-up questions. The vignette approach offers a number of benefits, particularly for eliciting data on awareness and attitudes, including: (1) flexibility that allows the researcher to design an instrument uniquely responsive to specific topical foci; (2) enjoyment and creativity for the informant; and (3) depersonalization that encourages an informant to think beyond his or her own circumstances, an important feature for sensitive topics or for illuminating future use patterns of services. In this article, we illustrate the vignette approach by examining the awareness and attitudes of older adults toward the use of formal community-based or home-health services. Although researchers generally acknowledge the importance of understanding informants’ awareness of and attitudes toward formal services, these factors are often overlooked in formal service utilization literature, possibly owing to a lack of methodological tools. By employing the vignette approach, we avoided prestuctured questionnaires that often contain investigator bias while encouraging topical focus unavailable in most ‘grand tour questions’. We provide a description of and evidence for how this vignette approach circumvented frequently encountered problems in awareness and attitudinal research, while more richly capturing the voices of the informants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-74
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the United States Administration on Ageing (90AR2029) and the National Institute on Ageing (AG11183). Appreciation is expressed to Dr Raymond T. Coward, Dr Stan L. Albrecht, Dr Graham D. Rowles and Mr Mark A. Swanson. The opinions expressed here, however, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funding agencies or of the persons listed above.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)


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