Rethinking and Updating Demographic Questions: Guidance to Improve Descriptions of Research Samples

Jennifer L. Hughes, Abigail A. Camden, and Tenzin Yangchen Agnes Scott College

From the authors:

In this editorial, we encourage authors to rethink and update the demographic questions they use in their research surveys. We argue that this is important for ethical and professional reasons (i.e., inclusion and advancing diversity) and also for research integrity reasons (i.e., accurately describing samples for the purposes of clarity, which impacts generalization of findings and possible replication of findings). We give information about the 5 most commonly used demographic questions in survey research (i.e., gender identity, age, ethnicity and race, education, and location) and other additional demographic questions often found in research (i.e., questions about children, disability, employment, relationship status, religion, sexual orientation, and social class). We list questions and answer choices that we selected after reviewing the research literature, and we include our additional, more inclusive answer choices and coding categories. These modified questions better reflect the complexity of respondents’ identities and provide clarity as to how to assess those identities.