What is a Questionnaire?
A questionnaire is a set of questions which needs to be answered for a particular study, study or survey research. The questions in an questionnaire follow a definite or logical order. A good questionnaire is designed in such a manner which makes it easy for the respondent to answer it in correct manner and usually have closed questions. Questionnaires, surveys and inventories are the different forms by which data is collected by various organisations. The are used in gathering objective, quantitative data as well as for securing information of a qualitative nature. In some studies, the questionnaire is the sole research tool utilized but it is more often used in conjunction with other methods of investigation or survey methods. Questionnaires can be sent to respondents in form of paper (print) or in electronic form.
A good questionnaire allows the respondents to read and understand the questions and reply to them in writing in the relevant spaces provided for the purpose on the said form/s. Ideally the respondent has to answer the questions on his own, i.e., totally unaided. This is one of the most important characteristic of a good questionnaire. There are a few things to avoid such as sensitive question, leading question, embarrassing questions, open ended question etc.
Importance and use of a Good Questionnaire
Questionnaires are common and inexpensive research tool used by private companies, government departments, individuals, groups, NGOs etc to get feedback, research, collect data from consumer, and for better understanding of product or customers. Questionnaire plays an important role in surveys and job interview to get complete and accurate information from respondents. In a formal questionnaire there are many points such as questionnaire design, research objective, response rate, and other important aspects which needs to be kept in mind so as to get the desired results. Such studies form part of primary surveys and the data collected is generally meant for the end-user/company. However when the data collection is large, an independent firm or a department can be given the task of getting the questionnaire filled. It is not possible to conduct a primary survey without a questionnaire. There are several characteristics and qualities of a good questionnaire, some of the important qualities are explained in this article.
The person preparing the questionnaire should be aware of the target group, response option which will be provided, sample size, question wording so as to make a good and effective questionnaire. In case the questioned are being set for an interview, then they should be well structured and help in checking the communication skills, leadership, of the candidate and then the other aspects of the interview.
What are the qualities of a Good Questionnaire?
A good questionnaire should have a clear objective and questions should be asked in a logical manner. Questions which are easy to understand and answer is essential to get accurate and good results. When preparing a questionnaire for your research or survey, following qualities and characteristics should be focused upon:
- know what needs to be measured – Having a clear picture and understanding of what data needs to be collected contributes to the quality of data collection.
- Understand how to word/frame question – Words should be neutral and should not be leading. Whatever your opinion may be, own opinion should never be reflected in the questions. This is done both intentionally and unintentionally but should be taken care of.
- Emphasis on right word/phrase should be kept in mind – The language should be clear so that the required data can be received. This also makes the question and the requirement of survey easy to understand and thus help in getting a better response and answer.
- Define and qualify terms – This is most essential when a technical survey or a field specific survey is being done. If you think that the audience being surveyed might not know about some terms than they must be defined to get any proper response. This will increase the quality and decrease the bounce rate or number of questions which were left unanswered.
- Avoid double negatives or more than 1 negative word in question – Use of negative word has a psychological effect and can influence the answer.
- Sufficient or adequate alternatives should be provided – Available options should have the most expected answers.
- Multiple questions in question should be avoided – One question should have one answer. If more than one question needs to be asked than it should be made a separate question to improve clarity of questions.
- Word requiring emphasis should be emphasized – It helps in making a point and question clear.
- Options like good/bad/fair/average should be quantified through photographs or other mean – These are very vague terms and interpretations of these varies from person to person.
- Unwanted assumptions should be avoided – A survey is about getting factual data and assumptions should be avoided.
How to make your questionnaire stand out?
- The physical appearance of the questionnaire affects the cooperation or the response from the people. An attractive looking questionnaire is a plus point. Size, quality of paper, colour of paper, arrangement of items on the questionnaire or layout/ format of the questionnaire is important for improving the physical appearance.
- Consideration of who is to record the responses. If a highly trained investigator is to do the questioning and enter the replies, the form should be different from the one drawn up for the informant to fill by himself.
- Choice of word is an important consideration. Respondent with limited vocabularies are likely to be suggestive. He may just choose one of the alternative responses without any idea as to the meaning of his response. Simple word with out multiple meaning is to be considered. Danger words, catchwords or words with emotional connotations should be avoided. Long questions should be avoided.
- Choice and sequence of question is important. Many refusals and misunderstandings can be avoided by a proper arrangement of questions. The opening questions should be easy to answer. Personal Question or sensitive questions should be placed in the middle or at the end of questionnaire.
- Multiple choice questions should be extensively used as they provide the survey respondents with specific answers and well refined options to choose from.
What are the things to avoid to make a Good Questionnaire?
When designing a questionnaire, it is equally important to know what should be avoided. We have already covered what you should include in a good questionnaire, and now we will list of of the things to be avoided so as to improve the quality of your questions. There are certain negative points which should be avoided as far as possible.
- Greater than required length – If there are too many questions than the chances of getting them answered is very less. In a busy schedule no one is willing to give answer for too many question. So try to keep it short and to the point. A good questionnaire is short and precise to fulfil the requirement, try to keep it under 1 or 2 pages.
- Subjective Questions – Until and unless it is very necessary to get the opinion of the user or targeted group, subjective or open ended questions should be avoided. This is because everyone have a different perspective and the answer received might not give any useful information. It will be difficult to quantify and present and yo might not receive complete information. It is also seen that people start narrating their experiences in open-ended questions which does not add much value to the research being conducted. It also takes a lot of space, time and efforts so should be avoided.
- Contradicting questions – Before getting a questionnaire filled make sure to read it three to four-time. This is to ensure no question is contradicting or repeating.
- Objectify/bias/conclusion – This is one of the most frequent mistakes done while preparing a questionnaire. Always keep in mind that the survey being conducted needs to be unbiased and must not reflect any opinion of the company or the person preparing questionnaire. All the questions should be neutral, also no question should influence the answer of any other question.
Related Article: Characteristics of Good & Bad Multiple-Choice Questions
Reasons why companies/ organisations use questionnaires for data collection
There are various reasons why various organisations and intuitions prefer collecting data by use of surveys and questionnaires. Knowing what information to collect is important so that questions can be framed accordingly. This also help in identifying if use of questionnaires will be useful for the research purpose and how to use and design it. Some of the advantages of using questionnaire are:
- The questionnaire is usually mailed to the respondents and contains specific, clear-cut directions; the persons charged with the collection of data need not exert themselves on offering additional explanations or instructions.
- It possible to cover large number of population spread over a large territory. It is more economical in terms of time, energy and money.
- It is an impersonal technique. Uniformity from one measurement situation to another is provided by virtue of its standardized wordings of questions, sequence and instructions.
- It ensures anonymity. The respondents have a greater confidence that they will not be identified as holding a particular view of opinion.
- Impose less pressure on the respondents for immediate response. The respondent can consider each point carefully before actually putting his reply in writing.
Disadvantages and drawbacks of Questionnaire
- The respondent is expected to be well educated who can read and understand the questions.
- Response rate is low in case of mailed questionnaires.
- Misinterpretation of question may lead to incorrect information. There is a little chance to clarify a particular response.
- Success depends upon the sense of responsibility of the respondent.
- The investigator does not get opportunity to understand the stimuli impinging upon the respondent according to his design.
Questionnaires are inexpensive tools for any research when used judiciously. They help is getting answer to various research questions, acting as a tool for interviewer, check communication skill of a respondent, understand the needs and demands of the focus group etc. Knowledge of various analysis and sampling methods such as random sampling, stratified sampling, Linkert scale etc are useful when preparing a survey questionnaire.