10 rules for writing and programming a questionnaire.
Why programming a questionnaire is such a difficult task?
Answers may be various but let’s try to sum them up in what we think it’s the complete definition of its purpose.
The survey questionnaire is the tool that allows communication between the three main players of a market survey: the researcher, the interviewer and the target audience.
However, survey questions alone are not enough to guarantee reliable data. To be fit for purpose a questionnaire has to exhibit some key characteristics like readability, conciseness and coherence.
In this article we disclose the 10 basic rules to create a questionnaire.
Programming a questionnaire with the right structure
Not all survey designs are the same: when the research goal changes, also the target and the structure of the questionnaire change. Other than already mentioned readability, structure originates from other elements:
You can’t focus just on content when you deal with market research. Structure is essential because it’s how respondents engage with your Job. That’s why it’s crucial for the researcher to create a survey with clear and comprehensible questions so all respondents can understand them in the same way. For this purpose you don’t just need a consistent questions sequence and a friendly language but also a correct use of question types.
Everybody knows that it takes a lot of time to draw somebody’s attention but only seconds to lose it. That’s why you have to focus on concise but complete questions to avoid answer errors due to misunderstandings and lack of attention.
List of topics
Let’s get into the questionnaire design. First thing is drawing up a list of topics related to the survey so that you’re sure that you won’t waste time on topics that are not interesting for your purpose.
A list of variables to collect based on topics selected before will follow.
We spoke about readability before as one of the key points of programming a questionnaire. And what makes a questionnaire readable if not language? Using a language that is too technical is the wrong choice: you have always to keep in mind that your target is rarely familiar with marketing lingo. This is not the only thing to keep in mind.
It’s equally important NOT to use a biased language to avoid giving the impression you’re suggesting a specific point of view to the respondent.
How to ask questions
The way you ask questions may influence the way you get answers. A question to be perfect has to be:
Impartial and neutral
Single (avoid double questions)
Specific (avoid generic questions)
If you deal with sensitive topics, like illness or addiction, you have to phrase the question discreetly and abstaining from judgements to put the respondent at ease. A great way to do that is reminding the interviewee that he’s not the only one who has been in a similar situation.
Open questions and closed questions
What can you expect from an open question? And what can you expect from a closed one? We can give you some tips to choose between them.
Open ended questions are useful to collect unexpected answers and to reach a wider target of respondents. Moreover, open questions encourage a respondent analysis on the topic. Closed ended questions (as single or multiple choice questions) are preferred when you have an high number of respondents and when you need the same answer codification for all of them.
Programming a questionnaire with the right sequence
The result of the research can be considerably influenced by the sequence of questions. In fact the order of the questions can produce a neutral questionnaire or subtly suggest an answer. You have two types of questions sequences to choose from:
From generic to specific: to use if you want the respondent to focus on the general topic before and on the specific detail then. It’s useful to collect spontaneous and instinctive opinions from specific to generic: to use if you want the respondent to ponder on the topic.
Filter questions allows to skip one or more of the other questions. Depending on answer given, the question filters information in real time deciding if to analyze or not that related topic. This survey tools are really useful both to avoid asking irrelevant questions and to address the respondent to a more specific answer.
Testing the questionnaire
Writing the questionnaire according to the 9 rules above doesn’t guarantee its certain effectiveness. It’s fundamental to make one or more TESTS before starting the survey. The researcher will be able to verify that:
Questions are formulated clearly and impartially
Filters are working
Questionnaire templates are displayed correctly on all devices
The questionnaire is available for everybody