What is the Best Questionnaire Format for Research Surveys

What is the Best Questionnaire Format

A questionnaire comprises of a series of questions asked from the respondents in order to investigate any phenomenon, situation, fact, or figures. Though its use is more common in research studies and in statistics but sometimes questionnaire is used just to get fun answers. The first questionnaire was first developed by Sir Francis Galton.

Questionnaire is basically one of the types of survey which is a method in primary research. Questionnaire is one of the most commonly used methods in survey. Since other two methods that are interview and observation are rather difficult to conduct as compared to questionnaire. Questionnaires can be conducted for any type of a research study, but their use is common in social sciences, humanities and in management studies where one has to know the opinion of people regarding anything.

Some Useful Links on Questionnaire Samples

Questionnaire Construction:

Questionnaire construction is a technical task and one has to take caution in designing questions, number of questions, their sequence and their style of writing.

Question Types:

There are basically two types of questionnaire questions; i-e, open-ended questions and close-ended questions. Both of these types have their own advantages and disadvantages. Both do not suit to a single situation and there can be a study where open-ended questions will suit but in another study only close-ended questions will yield best data. In some studies both types of questions can be used but there are problems associated with such a study which we will discuss below.

  • Open-ended Questions:

Open-ended questions are those questions that do not have options or they do not have pre-defined answers from which respondent will choose. The respondent is given free choice to write any response of their own choice. Open-ended questions are used in a situation where the researcher is either unaware of the kind of responses respondents will choose from or else the topic is so wide and the population is so diverse that there is chance that they will give very diverse answers. Sometimes the questions need in-depth answers so researcher prefer to use open-ended questions so that the respondents can give detailed answers. They have certain drawbacks and advantages.

  • Advantages:

Open-ended questions yield in-depth information from the respondents.

Open-ended question makes the respondent at ease by writing whatever they wanted to write.

Open-ended questions do not limit the respondents responses.

There are few chances of personal bias by the researcher in using open-ended questions.

In open-ended questions, the verdict of the respondent gets very clear.

The real views of the respondent are portrayed in open-ended questions.

  • Disadvantages:

Regardless of many advantages sometimes it becomes difficult to use open-ended questions and does not suit in some situations.

Open-ended questions yield a data so in-depth that its analysis becomes difficult.

Most of the researchers prefer to use close-ended questions because in open-ended questions respondents gave responses which have nothing to do with the research objectives.

Sometimes respondents also find it difficult to write from their own mind and they like questions in which they just have to choose an option rather than writing elaborate details.

  • Close-ended Questions:

Close-ended questions are more commonly used in questionnaires. Though in close-ended questions there are pre-defined options from which respondent will choose but still it is most adaptable method of questioning. In close-ended questions, the respondent had to choose from yes/no questions or multiple choice questions. There are also pre-designed scales which many researchers prefer to follow while designing a close-ended questionnaire.

  • Advantages:

There are several advantages of close-ended questions.

Close-ended questions are easier to fill by the respondents. Many times respondents feel that it will take less time so they accept being part of the survey.

Close-ended questions get responses which are easy to analyze and interpret, therefore, most of the researchers prefer this method over open-ended questionnaire.

Close-ended questions have pre-formulated options so the respondents do not give irrelevant answers and this is also one of the biggest advantages.

  • Disadvantages:

Close-ended questions may at times confine the respondent to choose from the list of options which may not reflect the real answer the respondent wish to give but in these cases usually the researcher add an additional option of “other” or “anything else” in which the respondent can write his/her own opinion other than what researcher has mentioned.

Question number:

Number of questions to be added in the questionnaire depends on various factors, but one thing is sure that a questionnaire that contain too many questions will not be very effective. Still it depends on the type of study and the target population. A population that has low mental I.Q. will face problems in answering too many questions, but a questionnaire that has to be submitted to an educated population will know that the questions should be answered in proper manner.

Order of Questions:

The sequence of questions in the questionnaire should be logical and it should not be a haphazard one. Some researcher do not think about the order of questions but when respondents read the questionnaire they do get affected by it. So try to think from respondent’s point of view while writing questionnaire. Bold questions should be asked in the end.

Other Considerations:

  • Check the spellings of the question statements before printing and submitting them to the respondents. Misspelled words can mean something else to the reader.
  • Do not use offensive language in the questionnaire. If one question in the questionnaire offends respondent then he will not answer the questions.
  • Sometimes consciously or unconsciously we write question statements that carry double-meanings such questions will not get right responses.
  • If their are any difficult terms in the questionnaire than do explain them otherwise the respondents will either do not give answers to such questions or else skip it.
  • Write to the point question statements.
  • Avoid unnecessary questions a long questionnaire will cause respondents to get bore and they may even not fill it.
  • Know the academic and mental capacities of the target population and design questions accordingly.
  • If there are certain personal or emotional questions ask them in the middle or at the end. If you will start your questionnaire with such questions respondents will feel that your questionnaire contains many such questions. Let your respondents make a rapport with you.
  • Don’t ask for elaborate answers for the questions as elaborate answers need much more time of the respondent and they may not fill it. Detailed answers are difficult to analyze too.
  • Use polite language but that does not mean that you start to ask about their personal life and don’t be harsh either. Don’t forget the formality.
  • Don’t write questions that already contain the answer to the question. In this way you will impose answers to the respondents rather than knowing their point of view and bias will come into your research.
  • Prefer neutral questions rather than using confirmatory or negative questions.
  • Let the respondents know that their privacy will be ensured and their name and other information will not be leaked.
  • In close-ended questions provide enough options to choose from.

Questionnaire Administration and Collection:

Questionnaire can be administered in many ways. Each has its own pros and cons; no single method is best one. In some situation one will suit more than the other. Some of the common methods are as follows.

Mail-administered Questionnaire:

Through mail questionnaires can be sent to respondents who live farther away. When questionnaires are mailed to the respondents they are usually accompanied by a cover-letter which tells the respondent the objective of research and the importance of their participation in survey. It may also include money to send back the questionnaire after filling it.

Phone-administered Questionnaire:

Administering questionnaire by phone gives responses readily but many people do not cooperate in this method.

Electronic Questionnaire:

Electronic method of questionnaire submission is new one. In this method the researcher e-mail questionnaire to the respondents and they fill it and send it back to the researcher. There are also other methods to conduct poll on internet.

Self-administered Questionnaire:

Self-administered questionnaire is the best method of administration because you can submit questionnaire and collect them.



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