Method and data material
This chapter discusses the research method, the creation of the survey questions, selection of respondents, ethical considerations and the validity and reliability of the study.
Quantitative research approach
The objective of our study was to compare survey responses from two different groups to analyze whether there were cultural differences in the responses. We applied a quantitative research approach, which is appropriate for our choice of research method, collecting primary data through a survey with closed-ended questions.
Analysis of the data
The results from the survey responses were statistically analyzed in SPSS. By conducting independent samples t-tests, we tested for the equality of means from two independent samples; one on individuals from Sweden, a country considered to have an individualistic culture and the other on individuals from China, a country considered to have a collectivistic culture (Hofstede, 2011). With the t-test, one can compare samples of different sizes and it also works well with small sample sizes of less than 30, which made it ideal for our analysis (Denscombe, 2010).
Cross-tabulation tables on the responses for each survey question were created and examined to see the distributions of responses within the two groups, China and Sweden. Similar to Hofstede’s approach, particular emphasis was placed on investigating the differences in the mean responses of the groups.
To be able to respond to our research questions, the findings were interpreted and analyzed for cultural differences by using the concepts of Jongbloed and Andres (2015) and Hofstede’s national culture dimensions (Hofstede, 2011), which are described in chapter 2.7 and chapter 5 in more detail.
Before creating the survey questions, we did extensive research on existing surveys on self-evaluated happiness and well-being and on relevant research articles in order to find the best way to word survey questions relating to our topic (Jongbloed & Andres, 2015; Waterman, Schwartz, Zamboanga, et al., 2010). In constructing the web-survey, we followed the OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being (2013). In particular, we paid close attention to:
the order of the questions; starting with demographic questions, continuing with important subjective well-being questions, and ending with more personal, self-scrutinizing questions how the response options were anchored having the wording of the questions relatable to the target group (i.e. students)
Connecting to the concepts about what ordinary citizens consider the construct of happiness to be, the survey questions were categorized according to the themes of family and social relations, work, health, and happiness as balance (Jongbloed & Andres, 2015). By connecting to existing research on how subjective well-being is relative to the capabilities of a person, and to external and internal factors; questions pertaining to people’s sense of purpose and meaning in life, sense of control, and to what extent they feel part of something bigger than themselves, were included in the questionnaire.
The survey consisted of 28 questions. The first 5 questions were demographic multiple-choice questions, except for the questions on “nationality” and “religion” that were open-ended questions. The survey continued with 22 closed-ended questions formulated as statements with ranking type of responses. For the majority of these, a Likert ranking scale of 1–5 was used, where number 1 represented “not at all important”, and number 5 represented “most important”. Alternatively, “strongly disagree”/” strongly agree” as response options were used. In addition, one open-ended question asked for “the estimated hours of study/work per week”.
The question 6 in the survey is different from the others. This question is commonly used in the World Value Survey, and is asking for the overall satisfaction with life. The question was included, not for cultural comparison, but more to assess any differences between the groups on how they were experiencing their well-being as a whole, when taking the survey. The Likert scale used in this question is 1–10 (Inglehart, Haerpfer, & Moreno, et al., 2014).
To be able to investigate the cultural aspects of our research questions, the survey questions were formulated in such a way, that they implicitly connect to either the higher or the lower end of the Hofstede’s national culture dimension dichotomies (Hofstede, 2011), as discussed in chapter 2.7.2.
Selection of respondents
To be able to find respondents relevant for our purpose, we used a purposive sampling technique. This technique entails « hand-picking » respondents that are either relevant as a group or, have specific knowledge or experience of the topic investigated (Denscombe, 2010). The actual selection of respondents was done through a convenience sampling technique, which entailed e-mailing the web-survey hyperlink to a teacher, who volunteered to conduct the web-survey during her lectures with international students in the Pathway program at Jönköping University. To reach respondents from Sweden, we used our own network of Swedish students at Jönköping University to have them post the surveys in their respective closed student peer Facebook-groups. We believe these sampling techniques were appropriate as the teacher and ourselves could act as references and vouch for the legitimacy of the survey.
As we were interested in grouping together respondents from countries considered having cultural differences as outlined by Hofstede (2011), our inclusion criteria therefore comprised respondents of different nationalities. Furthermore, to be able to compare cultural differences of the two groups, limiting the sample to individuals with common non-cultural features was important. The common non-cultural features of our sample were the fact that they were students and of the same generation.
Once the data had been collected it was screened for patterns. We received 78 responses in total. The data comprised 29 respondents from Sweden, 35 respondents from China and the remaining 14 respondents were from Iran, India, Brazil, Russia and Pakistan. As we had two fairly equivalent sample sizes of two contrasting cultures, a comparison between China and Sweden was deemed appropriate for our study and the remaining respondents were not included in the sample and analysis.
The Chinese students that participated in the survey were studying in the introductory Pathway program before entering the regular undergraduate programs at Jönköping University. These students had been to Sweden for around six months prior to participating in the survey. As they have lived in Sweden for some time, they have been in contact with the Swedish culture. They have also chosen to study abroad, which make them different from other Chinese students of the same ages, who choose to stay and study in China.
The Swedish students that participated in the survey were studying in undergraduate programs at the School of Education and Communication, Jönköping University. Some of the Swedish students are also in a different context, having moved away from home to study in Jönköping. In addition, even if the cultural context is similar across Sweden, their particular circumstances may still affect what they value in life.
Demographics of the survey respondents
The demographic data collected from the respondents included gender, age and religion. The gender distribution was uneven between the two groups; China had 43% male and 57% female respondents, and Sweden 21% male, 76% female, and 3% that responded, “other or prefer not to specify”. The age groups comprised mainly of the age interval 18–25-year olds, amounting to 84% of the total sample, with only a few respondents in other age groups. The data regarding religion were non-conclusive, as the responses were either scattered in terms of non-denominational and denominational variations or implying no religious affiliation. Moreover, this question was constructed as an open-ended and non-compulsory question, which enabled respondents to leave it unanswered. Due to the above noted types of responses regarding religion, it was excluded from the analysis.
The feedback from the pilot respondents was taken into consideration when creating the final version of the web-survey.
Although web-based surveys posted directly in open social media could have a quicker response time, we believe, these surveys tend to be more suitable for opinion-based surveys on recycling, buying organic food etc. The questions in our web-survey needed some inner reflection and thought, and so the survey was estimated to take longer to fill out. Filling out the survey during a lecture or in a closed Facebook group had the benefit of allowing the respondents to focus and take their time to reflect on the questions without being disturbed by the constant feeds of information in open social media.
As the web-survey built on voluntary participation, the sample of responses by default over-represented individuals who were more inclined to respond than those who were not, for whatever reason they chose not to respond or did not complete the survey, i.e. non-response through refusal (Denscombe, 2010). Furthermore, a non-response stemming from non-contact bias may have occurred in the cases of Chinese students who did not attend their lectures and Swedish students who did not see the survey in their Facebook group.
Participation was voluntary and since it was a web-survey, respondents could choose to opt out of the survey if they did not want to participate or complete the survey.
Since the topic of the survey was asking for respondents’ subjective experiences, which is a topic that can be sensitive to share, a specific statement was included in the survey’s introductory paragraph. There it was stated that by participating in the survey, the respondents confirmed that they understood that their responses were anonymous and would not be identified with them in any way and that they were at least 18 years of age. Furthermore, the respondents were informed of who were conducting the survey, and that it was part of a bachelor thesis project, which aimed at investigating whether there are cultural differences in how people experience aspects of happiness and well-being in their lives.
1.1 PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 CENTRAL CONCEPTS AND DEFINITIONS
2.2 TOP-DOWN AND BOTTOM-UP PERSPECTIVES
2.3 WHAT MAKES THE PERCEPTION OF WELL-BEING RELATIVE?
2.4 PSYCHOLOGY OF WELL-BEING
2.5 SEN’S CAPABILITY APPROACH
2.6 CULTURE AND WELL-BEING
2.7 ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK
3 METHOD AND DATA MATERIAL
3.1 QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH APPROACH
3.2 ANALYSIS OF THE DATA .
3.3 SURVEY DESIGN
3.4 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
3.5 VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY OF THE STUDY
4.1 GEARS OF WELL-BEING
4.2 HAPPINESS AS BALANCE
4.3 SUMMARY OF THE RESULTS
5.1 ANALYSIS OF GEARS OF WELL-BEING
5.2 ANALYSIS OF HAPPINESS AS BALANCE
5.3 SUMMARY OF THE ANALYSIS
6 CONCLUDING DISCUSSION
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
How Does Culture Influence Experiences of Happiness and Well-being? A Comparative Study of Chinese and Swedish Perceptions