How to Write a Questionnaire
There are always times when one needs to know how to write a questionnaire. Perhaps you are running a business and need to find out more about what your potential consumers need. Maybe you are at school and need to conduct some research as part of a technology project.
I have constructed many surveys in the past and taught others how to do so. There are a few rules which make it easier for your respondents (the people who will answer) to supply you with the results that you desire.
Before you start
Before you start to write a questionnaire, you need to be aware of
certain rules for success.The first one is that questionnaire has two Ns!
Your questionnaire will need to be quite concise. This is so people will not get bored. Imagine being stopped by a market researcher in the street, "Would you mind answering a few questions? It will only take about two hours". Eeeek.
It needs to be easily readable and written in clear, easy-to-understand language. Not everyone has a command of the English language as good as yours. Pompous language will turn them off. People need to know what you are trying to say.
Remember that everyone wants something for nothing. You could make your respondents think that they will benefit from helping you. If you have a business, you could offer them a free pen with your company’s name on. Another way is to tell them in the introductory blurb how they could benefit directly. When the data has been interpreted they will get better customer service. This is because you will be able to provide what you have discovered what people really want.
Organise your survey properly. The introductory question
should be one that is easy to answer. This puts the respondent at ease.
If you need a specific sort of person for your survey, ask that question first. For example, if your business is for bricklayers, it is pointless people answering questions about "Where do you live?" or "what are your hobbies?", if they are not in the building trade.
Only ask one question at once. Don't ask "Do you like holidays in Spain in September?" If someone loves Spain but only visits in winter, they won't know how to answer.
Detail matters when you write a questionnaire
You need to be clear about what information you actually need. For example “Do you use your car regularly?”
How often is "regularly" to you? Is it every day or every week? You know what you are looking for but the respondent does not. You must always specify exactly what you mean and give people options.
Remember the random odd answer. There will always be someone who says something that you never expected. If you are using tick boxes, you must always allow the respondent to tick a box that is called “Other, please give details”. Do not forget the “Don’t know” option for people who do not understand your question or are simply confused and don't know if they should reply ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Some finer points
Specifying ranges. You should take care when specifying ranges. It is easy to make errors here. Imagine being faced with the following question:
- State your age range from the following:
- 15-25 : 25-35 : 35-45
If a respondent is 35, should he tick the first box or the second?
You also need to understand about open and closed questions. In a survey or questionnaire, people do not know what answer you are looking for. This means that your questions must be very clear. Open questions makes your respondent think hard before writing a personal answer. This may be random, for example, “What is your favourite weekend activity?” Closed questions will result in a "yes" or "no" answer. They may be answered by the means of a tick e.g. “Have you ever smoked a cigarette?” Closed questions are easiest to answer and analyse but you may miss information.
At the end of the questionnaire, remember to thank
them for their time and co-operation. Keep them sweet - you may have another survey coming up. It is useful to keep a notebook nearby so you can jot down good ideas to help you to write a questionnaire next time.