How to write a great questionnaire – part 2
27 August 2019
Last month we looked at the importance of being transparent, ensuring your questions are in the right order, and taking care that the language you use is appropriate to the recipients. If you haven’t read Part 1, the link is here
So now I’ll move on to the next three issues …
A great benefit of using an online survey tool is that you can force respondents to answer each question before they move on to the next. This avoids a situation where you end up with lots of partially completed questionnaires and instead you’ll have full data sets for everyone who has answered.
BUT please don’t force people to answer questions about income, gender, relationship status – you WILL annoy them. If you insist on making questions mandatory then you should include an “I prefer not to answer” option.
Also make sure that any mandatory question has a full set of answer options available. For instance, don’t ask “Which days of the week do you work?” listing the options as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – you need to include Saturday and Sunday too. You also need an option for “I don’t work”.
Be careful about how many personal questions you include. Do you really need to know their gender? Or their age? Is that relevant to your research? Could you ask respondents to give you their customer number instead? This could link back to other information you already hold about them, saving the need to fill in their age, income, gender, marital status. Think about what you are asking and why you need that information.
And again, be clear about what you are going to do with this data. You must ensure you are GDPR-compliant.
TEST, TEST, AND TEST AGAIN
Once you’ve finished the questionnaire, test it.
Ask a colleague to complete the questionnaire, timing how long it takes them to do it.
Then ask another colleague to complete it.
Did it take each of them the same amount of time?
I’ve lost count of the number of times when I’ve started a questionnaire but then had to abort because it was taking too long, or I got stuck in a routing loop and couldn’t get to the end.
Next month ….
Next month I’ll be looking at the structure of questions in more detail. I’ll talk about biased questions, double- barrelled questions, loaded questions – and more.
If you’re thinking of conducting research and would like some advice about questionnaire design, then please give me a call – I’ll be happy to talk through the options with you. Or, if you want the whole thing taken off your hands, then I can help you with that too.