How to design Cost-Effective, Powerful Market Research – Part 2


Questionnaire Design. Part 1 of this series discussed Sampling, including developing the objectives for your research. Now that you have your sampling determined, here comes the fun part – writing the survey instrument or questionnaire. As with sampling, today’s DIY solutions make the survey writing process easier than ever before. However, you do still need to keep these principles in mind when constructing a questionnaire.

    1. Keep your research objectives in mind. Be certain that the questions you are considering will serve to solve the objective or objectives you identified during the sampling phase. Just because you can ask a particular question doesn’t mean you should.
    2. Map out your question sequence. A good rule to follow is to move from general questions toward specific ones. General questions are non-threatening and ease the respondent into the survey. General questions can qualify respondents or be easy questions that introduce the survey topic. A questionnaire must follow a logical path, so respondents don’t become confused or question to legitimacy of the survey itself.
    3. Consider respondents’ time. Everyone is busy, so keeping surveys as concise as possible, without losing sight of your objectives, will go a long way toward ensuring respondent participation through to the end. This doesn’t mean longer surveys aren’t doable. But longer surveys may require some type of incentive to encourage completion.
    4. Frame questions to fit into standard question types. Examples of question types include yes/no, ranking, rating (agree/disagree), multiple choice, and open-ended. Keep in mind that yes/no questions are only directional and don’t provide analytical depth. Open-ended questions are more burdensome on the respondent, so limiting their number will reduce respondent fatigue.
    5. Ask questions in a non-biased way. Questions that lead respondents to a specific type of answer are called “leading” and skew results. Instead, write questions that are impartial to obtain the most non-biased responses possible.
    6. Introduce the survey. You are asking respondents to provide sometimes personal information. By introducing the questionnaire, you inform them upfront why you are asking for their input. The introduction doesn’t need to be long, but does need to put the respondent at ease. It is also a good idea to let them know approximately how long the survey will take. Of course, many online DIY programs calculate the timing automatically once a survey is programmed.
    7. Testing is optional. You may not have time to test your survey before it must go “live.” But if you do, testing can be a good way to identify areas of the survey that don’t flow well, questions that aren’t working, and screening questions that are too robust. Having this new knowledge gives you the opportunity to revise and improve the questionnaire before it’s exposed to larger samples.

Written by Stephen Walker

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