How to write a great questionnaire – part 1
30 July 2019
Your data will only be as good as the questions you ask. A poorly written questionnaire will lead to poor data. This blog, the first of three on questionnaire design, will help you cut through the rubbish and put together a questionnaire which will ensure the data you gather is going to give you the answers you need.
This blog looks at three important issues related to questionnaire design. I’ll write about others in the next two blogs.
The methodology you use will depend on budget, timing and your audience. However, the points below apply whether you are conducting your research over the telephone, online, face to face, or even by post (yes! some research still happens by snail mail).
We are all concerned about data falling into the wrong hands, so it’s prudent to include an introduction outlining why you are conducting the research, what you will do with the answers provided, how they will be stored, and who will have access to your data.
Of course, you must ensure that you are storing the data in a GDPR-compliant way, and you must give your respondents the opportunity to opt out of the process.
The Market Research Society (or MRS, the UK’s industry body) has published a series of guidelines to which all members must adhere. You can read the full document here but one major point is that MRS members will never provide clients with details which enable respondents to be identified – unless respondents have given their permission.
BE WELL ORDERED
No-one wants to open a questionnaire and immediately be asked to give their gender, age, income, and postcode. You need to build a rapport with respondents first. Do this by asking non-intrusive questions to begin with. If you need to know age, income or other sensitive information, then ask these questions towards the end of the questionnaire when respondents will be feeling more at ease with the process.
Make sure that your questionnaire flows well. Questions about similar things should be grouped together. Think about those questions which might affect how respondents answer other questions. For instance, if there is a section which only applies to people who have visited your website, then ask about website use first, so that those who haven’t visited it can skip any irrelevant questions.
Make sure that the language you use is appropriate to your audience. Remember that your respondents won’t be as close to your business as you are, so avoid using overly technical terms or jargon. Instead think about how respondents might refer to your products or services, rather than how you describe them.
Think about the age of your respondents, and make sure you use language that will be understood by everyone.
If you need to provide your questionnaire in other languages, then please, please, please use a translation agency! Online translation tools are amazing if you’re on holiday and want to order a coffee, but if you use these tools for your questionnaire then you’re running the risk that your results will be a jumbled mess.
Next month ….
Next month I’ll look at the use of mandatory responses and the importance of testing your questionnaire.
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.