Questionnaire Design - Guidelines on how to design a good questionnaire

A good questionnaire should not be too lengthy. Simple English should be used and the question shouldn’t be difficult to answer. A good questionnaire requires sensible language, editing, assessment, and redrafting.

Questionnaire Design Process

  1. State the information required- This will depend upon the nature of the problem, the purpose of the study and hypothesis framed. The target audience must be concentrated on.

  2. State the kind of interviewing technique- interviewing method can be telephone, mails, personal interview or electronic interview. Telephonic interview can be computer assisted. Personal interview can be conducted at respondent’s place or at mall or shopping place. Mail interview can take the form of mail panel. Electronic interview takes place either through electronic mails or through the internet.

  3. Decide the matter/content of individual questions- There are two deciding factors for this-

    1. Is the question significant? - Observe contribution of each question. Does the question contribute for the objective of the study?
    2. Is there a need for several questions or a single question? - Several questions are asked in the following cases:
      • When there is a need for cross-checking
      • When the answers are ambiguous
      • When people are hesitant to give correct information.
    Questionnaire Design Process

  4. Overcome the respondents’ inability and unwillingness to answer- The respondents may be unable to answer the questions because of following reasons-

    • The respondent may not be fully informed
    • The respondent may not remember
    • He may be unable to express or articulate

    The respondent may be unwilling to answer due to-

    • There may be sensitive information which may cause embarrassment or harm the respondent’s image.
    • The respondent may not be familiar with the genuine purpose
    • The question may appear to be irrelevant to the respondent
    • The respondent will not be willing to reveal traits like aggressiveness (For instance - if he is asked “Do you hit your wife, sister”, etc.)

    To overcome the respondent’s unwillingness to answer:

    1. Place the sensitive topics at the end of the questionnaire
    2. Preface the question with a statement
    3. Use the third person technique (For example - Mark needed a job badly and he used wrong means to get it - Is it right?? Different people will have different opinions depending upon the situation)
    4. Categorize the responses rather than asking a specific response figure (For example - Group for income levels 0-25000, 25000-50000, 50000 and above)

  5. Decide on the structure of the question- Questions can be of two types:

    1. Structured questions- These specify the set of response alternatives and the response format. These can be classified into multiple choice questions (having various response categories), dichotomous questions (having only 2 response categories such as “Yes” or “No”) and scales (discussed already).
    2. Unstructured questions- These are also known as open-ended question. No alternatives are suggested and the respondents are free to answer these questions in any way they like.

  6. Determine the question language/phrasing- If the questions are poorly worded, then either the respondents will refuse to answer the question or they may give incorrect answers. Thus, the words of the question should be carefully chosen. Ordinary and unambiguous words should be used.

    Avoid implicit assumptions, generalizations and implicit alternatives. Avoid biased questions. Define the issue in terms of who the questionnaire is being addressed to, what information is required, when is the information required, why the question is being asked, etc.

  7. Properly arrange the questions- To determine the order of the question, take decisions on aspects like opening questions (simple, interesting questions should be used as opening questions to gain co-operation and confidence of respondents), type of information (Basic information relates to the research issue, classification information relates to social and demographic characteristics, and identification information relates to personal information such as name, address, contact number of respondents), difficult questions (complex, embarrassing, dull and sensitive questions could be difficult), effect on subsequent questions, logical sequence, etc.

  8. Recognize the form and layout of the questionnaire- This is very essential for self-administered questionnaire. The questions should be numbered and pre-coded. The layout should be such that it appears to be neat and orderly, and not clattered.

  9. Reproduce the questionnaire- Paper quality should be good. Questionnaire should appear to be professional. The required space for the answers to the question should be sufficient. The font type and size should be appropriate. Vertical response questions should be used, for example:

    Do you use brand X of shampoo ?

    • Yes
    • No

  10. Pre-test the questionnaire- The questionnaire should be pre-tested on a small number of respondents to identify the likely problems and to eliminate them. Each and every dimension of the questionnaire should be pre-tested. The sample respondents should be similar to the target respondents of the survey.

  11. Finalize the questionnaire- Check the final draft questionnaire. Ask yourself how much will the information obtained from each question contribute to the study. Make sure that irrelevant questions are not asked. Obtain feedback of the respondents on the questionnaire.

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