PhD of a Snail

I got a questionnaire in my postbox this morning. It wasn’t stamped which means it was hand-delivered.
It had this official USM letter stapled to it, and anything USM makes me curious (me being an alumni and knowing USM usually means something odd or another). I read it and found that it was a request to answer the attached survey from a post-grad student doing his PhD.
I like helping people. I don’t mind filling up surveys if I know it’s for a good cause. Or an academic exercise. God knows it was trying when I was doing my thesis the last round.
But the more I read, the more I think: heck, this student does not deserve my help at all because he’s a lazy jackass.
As most research-based studies go, surveys are the best way to gain information. They’re among the easiest when compared to other methods. You need to spend some time thinking about the questions, piloting them and then drawing up the actual survey questions. But brevity is important. You don’t want your respondents to gawp before they even start answering!
I believe what I learnt from my post-grad course is that a lot of research work needs commonsense and a innate understanding of human psychology. You don’t expect your respondent to wade through pages and pages of survey just because you cannot make up your mind which question to drop out. This unfortunate survey which I got in the post this morning contained 38 questions! 38 of them which required me to think!
Aside that, the number one mistake is that the student did not use the personal approach. Given that it was anonymously dropped into my postbox, I do not know the person and that gives me more reason to just junk the survey. After all, I’ve got nothing to lose. If he were a bit smarter, he might’ve just walked up to anyone and introduced himself and briefed the person on the survey and how important it was to help him. Perhaps then, some nice person might concede to at least hear this student out and help him.
In this case then, I think the student probably just wasted his money xeroxing the 8-page survey.
What makes me utterly flabbergasted is that the student went to all that trouble to xerox the survey, attach a formal letter from his faculty, place these in a brown envelope and personally puts this in the postbox only to conveniently forget to attach an SASE! I suppose he believes each person will happily drive to USM, find his faculty and hand it over to him???!!
Even with an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope), it is not guaranteed the person might answer or return the survey. I remember I had to cajole and remind my respondents to return my questionnaire to me. And I knew them personally!
This USM post-grad student might just find himself bereft of any information because no one will bother answering his survey!
I used to think that those with PhD’s and MBA’s were high-in-the-sky and full of knowledge. In recent years, I’ve met and worked with people who claim to be PhD holders but have the commonsense of a snail. I’ve met people who had no degrees whatsoever but smart as hell.
I guess if you’re stupid, no amount of PhD’s can make you smart. They’ll just lengthen your name.
And yeah, I threw the survey into my recycle paper box. Ironically, the survey was about recycling habits of Malaysians!

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