The formThe easiest way to do research is to come up with a list of multiple choice questions. The problem with this approach is that it assumes that all the answers are already known, and only the numbers need to be counted. I do not to know all the answers, so that's why I chose to ask open questions. Even open questions can imply certain answers, but that's a problem I don't know how to get around to. I tried to imply as many answers as possible, but more importantly tried to convey the message that I really wanted to hear what respondents themselves find important about dreams. The questions were meant to stimulate respondents to tell their story.
There were three blocks of questions. The text of the original form is available, but please do not use it to send me new interviews.
Some respondents commented about the lack of questions about the development process, or what I sometimes refer to as the learning curve. As some respondents also pointed out, there is so much to tell about dreams that one has to be selective. I didn't want to scare respondents away with too many questions. I hope I found a good compromise between too many and too few questions.
AnonymityRespondents were suggested that they could use an alias instead of their own name. Two respondents, 78 and 94, claimed both the alias "Dreamer".
Optionally, respondents could leave an email address to be notified when this report was published.
Finding respondentsThe survey was online during the August 2000. Announcements were made at the ASD webboard, the Dream Tree website, dream sections of About.com, Suite101 and the Open Directory, relevant Usenet newsgroups, Mythwell mailinglists, various mailinglist of the dreamworker Marc Vandekeere, the DreamChatters mailinglist, the Dream Registry mailinglist and the (Dutch) Droom mailinglist. Reminders were posted to some of these news media later on during the month. It's very well possible that others have promoted the survey on other mailinglists. My impression was that search engines kicked in fairly quickly as well, though they brought only a small minority of the visitors.
From the web logs I estimate that only 1 in 5 visitors actually clicked through from the entrance page to the form page.
Processing the resultsA total of 104 interviews was received. All interviews are available online. Obvious typing and spelling errors were corrected, but individual writing styles were preserved. In other words, quotes from interviews were not edited to conform to the writing style of this report.
To help find groups and trends in the data, all results were stored in a software program (Alchera) that makes it easy to create and score scales and generate charts. That way I could easily test my subjective impressions against quantitative data.
All results are underestimatedI belief all results all underestimated. There is so much to be told about dreams that most respondents very likely concentrated on those aspects that seem important to them. To take myself as an example: I did not tell about precognitive experiences because it was not a turning point in my interest in dreaming. I did not tell about strong spiritual-religious dreams, partly because I consider these private, but mostly because once again they were never a turning point. I didn't tell about how I recreate the music I hear in my dreams. It's not that I'm particularly secretive about it, but to me this is only a minor benefit of dreams.
I've taken myself as an example because that way I don't have to reveal anything about other respondents. However, I know quite a few of the respondents, so that's why I also know that my example adequately represents how some of them responded to the questions. Not every tid-bit about dreams can be told about, that would take respondents much too much time. Actually, some actually mentioned so in the interview.
I trust that at least the relative importance of aspects of dreaming have come out more or less correctly. If everyone did tell about the important aspects, this should be true. However, a friend of mine suspects that many people may have hold back on their most personal experiences. I wouldn't know.
Missing information: non-dreamersAs the survey only includes experienced dreamers, nothing can be said about people who take up an occasional interest in dreaming, then give up. This could be the case in many situations. Children often are fascinated by dreams, but forced by parents to abandon that interest. There must be many people out there having precognitive experiences, but not knowing what to do with them or not even knowing whether to take these experiences seriously.
It has always been assumed that dreams have much potential as a tool for self development. The reality is that practically nobody knows this. I guess many tried it, but were discouraged by the time and effort needed as well as the steep learning curve in general.
However, all these questions can not be really answered on the basis of this survey. At best, this survey may help to make some educated guesses.
Survey design in hindsightIt is unlikely that I will repeat this survey again, but if I had to, I would make a few small changes.
The About This Survey chapter introduced the following model for analyzing why people become dreamers:
Gender, number of respondents
Originally, I wanted to keep this survey simple. After I actually managed to receive over a 100 interviews that contained wonderful testimonies for the importance of dreams, I decided to make the report more comprehensive.
If I had to do this survey again, I would ask for gender. More importantly, I would explicitly encourage to give ages for important points in the development of interest in dreaming.
Getting at least 100 interviews is something I would definitely do again. For example, that a small number of people use dreaming a lot for writing, would not have stood out with a group of say 30 or 40 interviews.