STEPS IN QUESTIONNAIRE CONSTRUCTION -
September 27th, 2010
STEPS IN QUESTIONNAIRE CONSTRUCTION
A Questionnaire is often the heart of a survey operation. If the heart is not properly set up then the whole operation is bound to fail. Thus studying the main objective of the questionnaire is important. There are two main objectives in designing a questionnaire:
1. To maximize the proportion of subjects answering our questionnaire that is, the response rate: To maximize our response rate, we have to consider carefully how we administer the questionnaire, establish rapport, and explain the purpose of the survey. The length of the questionnaire should be appropriate.
2. To obtain accurate relevant information for our survey: In order to obtain accurate relevant information, we have to give some thought to what questions we ask, how we ask them, the order we ask them in, and the general layout of the questionnaire.
Thus the most important parameters in questionnaire designing can be described as:
1. Question Content
2. Question Phrasing
3. Question Sequencing
4. Question Layout
1. Question content:
For each question in the questionnaire, we should pay attention to how well it addresses the content we are trying to get at.
Deciding what to ask there are three potential types of information:
Information we are primarily interested in that is, dependent variables. Information which might explain the dependent variables-that is, independent variables.
Other factors related to both dependent and independent factors, which may distort the results and have to be adjusted for - that is, confounding variables.
Thus while forming the question content the following question must be answered appropriately.
1. Is the Question Necessary/Useful?
Examine each question to see if there is a need to ask it at all and if you need to ask it at the level of detail you currently have.
2. Do Respondents Have the Needed Information?
Look at each question to see whether the respondent is likely to have the necessary information to be able to answer the question.
3. Does the Question Need to be More Specific?
Sometimes the questions are too general and the information we obtain is more difficult to interpret.
4. Is Question Biased or Loaded?
One danger in question writing is that your own biases and blind spots may affect the wording.
5. Will Respondents Answer Truthfully?
For each question see whether the respondent will have any difficulty answering the question truthfully. If there is some reason why they may not, consider rewording the question.
2. Question phrasing:
The way questions are phrased is important and there are some general rules for constructing good questions in a questionnaire.
Use short and simple sentences
Short, simple sentences are generally less confusing and ambiguous than long, complex ones. As a rule of thumb, most sentences should contain one or two clauses.
Ask for only one piece of information at a time
For example, "Please rate the lecture in terms of its content and presentation" asks for two pieces of information at the same time.
It should be divided into two parts: "Please rate the lecture in terms of
(a) its content,
(b) its presentation."
Avoid negatives if possible
Negatives should be used only sparingly.
For example, instead of asking students whether they agree with the statement, "Small group teaching should not be abolished," the statement should be rephrased as, "Small group teaching should continue." Double negatives should always be avoided.
Ask precise questions
Questions may be ambiguous because a word or term may have a different meaning.
3. Question sequencing: In order to make the questionnaire effective and to ensure quality to the replies received, a researcher must pay attention to the question-sequence in preparing the questionnaire.
• A proper question sequence reduces the chances of the questions being misunderstood
• The question sequence must be clear and smooth- moving, with questions that are easiest to answer being put in the beginning.
• The first few questions are particularly important because they are likely to influence the attitude of the respondent and in seeking his desired cooperation.
• Following the opening questions are the question that are rally vital to the research problem and a connecting thread should run through successive questions.
• Relatively difficult questions must be relegated towards the end so that even if the respondent decides not to answer such questions, considerable information would have been obtained.
• The order of the questions is also important. Some general rules are:
-Go from general to particular.
-Go from easy to difficult.
-Go from factual to abstract.
-Start with closed format questions.
-Start with questions relevant to the main subject.
-Do not start with demographic and personal questions.
• Questions should form a logical part of a well thought out tabulation plan.
• Questions should basically meet the following standards
-Should be easily understood
-Should be simple
-Should be concrete and should conform as much as possible to the respondent’s way of thinking.
• Items on a questionnaire should be grouped into logically coherent sections. Grouping questions that are similar will make the questionnaire easier to complete, and the respondent will feel more comfortable. Questions that use the same response formats, or those that cover a specific topic should appear together.
• Each question should follow comfortably from the previous question. Writing a questionnaire is similar to writing anything else. Transitions between questions should be smooth.
Questionnaires that jump from one unrelated topic to another feel disjointed and are not likely to produce high response rates.