How to Write a Questionnaire: A Complete Guide
With all the changes traditional education undergoes, the need for instructions about traditionally non-academic forms of tasks is growing. Originally, polls were used primarily in politics, whereas now it has numerous other applications. That is why the skill of writing questionnaire for students by students is extremely important.
How to Write a Questionnaire?
Questionnaire writing tips in most cases are dictated by common sense and basic knowledge of human psychology. Preparation is as important in the questionnaire, as it is in any other form of writing. An effective questionnaire requires previous research and a deep understanding of what information one is supposed to uncover.
Phase I: Create questions
During the first phase, you should pay attention to your audience, learn what information the questionnaire needs to collect and how many respondents are needed to have sufficient results.
- Decide what type of information you need. This includes numeric data, opinions, agree/disagree, etc. What type of information will the questionnaire extract, either personal or impersonal. How deep can you get before the person feels uncomfortable answering the questions?
- Choose the types of questions that will be needed to get information. For example, if you need data about age groups and their choices, you will need simple questions with one answer required.
- Use closed-end questions to get exact information. Provide the interviewee with a range of options, however, keep them unambiguous. E.g., ‘Have you ever missed the election day on purpose?’
- Use the open-end question to get opinions, feedback or elaborate answers. This type of questions will allow you to get an insight into experience, thoughts or hopes.
- Ask questions in an unbiased, neutral, and open-minded manner. Remember that your goal is to collect data, not judge life choices, unless, of course, you are preparing a creative writing questionnaire.
- Strive for mutually exclusive answers. For examples, when asking about the age, do not give options like 21-31/31-41, as respondents who are 31 will fall under both answers. Instead, cut them into groups like 21-30/31-40. If you need to write a questionnaire for a single-aged group, simply skip the question.
Phase II: Compile questionnaire
Once you have the questions needed, the second phase begins. Now you need to think about the form of the questionnaire and how will it be delivered or dispersed.
- Decide on the format on polling. You can either do it online or offline. Amongst online options are: published on the website, delivered via e-mail, or spread through social media. For off-line inquiries, it can be done in person, via in-baskets, or through cold calls. If you decide to write a questionnaire online, choose a reliable platform and study it properly (it would be a shame to have to pay to extract the results).
- Design your questionnaire according to the delivery method. For example, online and person-to-person questionnaires can use photos and images, whereas this option will not be available via calls. Some people tend to disclose information if they do not feel safe or are not sure the information will be kept confidential. If your survey needs private data or personal information, an online questionnaire will work best.
- Pay attention to the order of questions. Make the order logical, and avoid the impact of the order on the results. For example, for ‘qualifies’ (a.k.a. questions that separate a specific group from all interviewees) should be placed at the beginning, to avoid confusion. Save opinions or personal questions till the end, letting people go through easier ones.
- Decide whether you will offer a bonus for completing the questionnaire. More people tend to take their time to answer if they know they will be rewarded. It might be a coupon, a discount, a piece of useful information, etc.
- Give it a test-drive. Before sending a questionnaire, make sure you have somebody who is eager to provide feedback. Ask whether they feel comfortable (never turn a questionnaire into an interrogation), whether the order of questions is logical if the wording is easy to understand, etc.
Phase III: Review the preliminary result
Having the right questions and proper order of those are important, however, do not forget about a review. Similar to editing and proofreading in an essay, a questionnaire requires you to go through certain steps.
- Make a general review and decide whether the information gathered is integral. If you need to learn about several aspects, it might be better to have separate polls. Check whether your questions coincide with answers you expect to have. For instance, ‘How often do you shop at ***’ limits the demography to the store, yet exclude online shopping. Rephrase any questions that might include several groups or actions.
- Check for common sense. Sometimes, questions make people, as they appear too broad, abstract or unrelated. For example, ‘Why do you vote?’ is a broad question that can lead to a discussion or a debate, whereas ‘Choose the main reason for voting…’ limits the choices to the list of options.
- Analyze open-end questions. Do you deliver expectations of the answer clearly? E.g., ‘What makes Dr.Palmer a good doctor?’ is a broad question which makes people ramble, while ‘Would you recommend Dr. Palmer to your friends? Why/Why not?’ is a specific question with a hint.
- Plan for missing data. In off-line questionnaires or if there are no restrictions, interviewees can skip specific questions. Think about ways to compensate for that.
- Account for unexpected results. Sometimes, if you notice unusual data, it might be a sign of a new trend, however, in most cases it signals that your questionnaire has a flaw.
Once you are done with all these steps, you can spread your questionnaire or start asking questions yourself.
Questionnaire Writing Sample
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