general introduction to the design of questionnaires for survey research
basic process of survey research can be outlined as follows:
define your research aims
identify the population and sample
decide how to collect replies
design your questionnaire
run a pilot survey
carry out the main survey
analyse the data
crucial part of good research design concerns making sure that the
questionnaire design addresses the needs of the research.
Your Research Aims
your survey by setting down the aims for the survey. To define the aims for
academic research you will need to review the relevant literature and you may
need to do some preliminary research amongst your target subjects. Fulfilling
these aims should then drive the design of your questionnaire and help select
questions that are relevant, concise and efficient.
the Population and Sample
population is simply all the members of the group that you are interested in. A
key issue in choosing the sample relates to whether the members you have chosen
are representative of the population. Often the sample is chosen randomly from
a list that contains all the members of the population.
How to Collect Replies
whether the survey is to be completed by the respondent directly or through an
interviewer, and design the questionnaire, and any other documents,
accordingly. It is important in both circumstances to explain to the potential
respondent why you believe they should answer the questions, doing so
persuasively can improve response rate. Where the questionnaire is administered
by post, or e-mail or some other indirect means, it is usual practice to
provide a letter that explains what the questionnaire is about and why its
completion is of value.
of the questionnaire can be split into three elements:
determine the questions to be asked,
select the question type for each question and specify the wording, and
design the question sequence and overall questionnaire layout.
on a Layout and Sequence
is good practice to ensure that the questionnaire has a title and that the
revision or date of the version is printed on the questionnaire. A brief
introductory statement is useful, especially if the introductory letter could
go adrift. Contact and return information should be included on the
questionnaire. Similarly it is good practice to number or otherwise identify
individual questions for reference purposes.
types of questions can be used, e.g. open vs. closed,single vs.multiple
responses, ranking, and rating.
advise against using open-ended questions and advocate using closed questions.
However, open questions can be useful. For example, the open question:
do you think are the reasons for football hooliganism?
elicit a whole range of replies of varying length and articulation.
on Question Wording
general rules can be stated on question wording:
Be concise and unambiguous
Avoid double questions
Avoid questions involving negatives
Ask for precise answers
Avoid leading questions
a Pilot Survey
the questionnaire on a small sample of your subjects first. If this is not
possible, at least test it on some colleagues or friends. The aim here is to
detect any flaws in your questioning and correct these prior to the main
survey. Having done your pilot survey, you can make amendments that will help
to maximise your response rate and minimise your error rate on answers.
Out the Main Survey
Respondents and Keep Track of Status
simple database is useful to keep track of when questionnaires were sent out
and to whom.
individual questionnaire must be uniquely identified by you, preferably before
it is distributed or, to preserve anonymity, afterwards. This identification
could be via a number, or letters and numbers.
for distribution should have been decided earlier with allowances for sending
out reminders or carrying out follow up calls.
precursor to analysis is the coding, entry and checking of data. In all
instances data can either be entered direct or imported from other packages
such as Excel, provided the instructions for the receiving package are adhered