Using questionnaires effectively

Questionnaires are very commonly used instruments in surveys, and rely on self reported answers from a particular sample intended to be representative of a much wider population.

The questionnaire is one of the most widely used instruments in research in the management sciences; it is also commonly used in business for market research.

Effective use of questionnaires combines the science of good research - careful selection of the sample, and of the likely responses according to the the research questions - with the art of asking good questions. A good questionnaire is difficult to compile, yet all too often it is used without a great deal of thought, as a method in its own right without being put into the context of research design, rather than as an instrument.

A poorly constructed questionnaire with poorly thought out methodology can give rise to two key problems: confusing questions which may be clear to the author of the questionnaire but mean different things to different respondents, and poor response, which means that the sample is not representative of the population.

Effectively used, however, it is a highly efficient tool for obtaining data of a both structured (i.e. the answers are predetermined) and unstructured (the answers are open to the respondent) nature.

In this section, we shall be looking at questionnaire contruction under the following headings:

The process of constructing a questionnaire

          Stages
          Establishing your objectives
          Administration method
          Questionnaire construction
          Pretesting

Different methods of delivering questionnaires

          Some initial considerations
          Interview methods
          Self administered
          Increasing the likelihood of completion

The organization and presentation of questionnaires

         Sequencing and steering
         Instructions
         Presentation

Constructing the questions

          The anatomy of a questionnaire question
          Some basic ground rules for writing questions

Question format and response elicitation

          Open ended questions
          Closed questions
          Alternatives

The analysis and writing up of questionnaires

          Analysis
          Types of data
          Presentation

The process of constructing a questionnaire