At the heart of market research studies is a questionnaire. People may think that questionnaire design is easy until they attempt to design one. Here are tips that should help.
Consider how you will administer the questionnaire. The wording of questions will differ depending on whether it will be administered over the telephone or be completed online.
Use screening questions at the beginning of the questionnaire to ensure the bona fides of respondents.
Think about the answers you are seeking from your survey and then think of the questions that could yield those answers.
You can seldom get the answers from one single question. Think about the detailed questions that will build the answer you are looking for.
Make the questions as simple as possible. Questions that include multiple ideas or two questions in one, will confuse people.
Make sure that the questions are without bias. Don’t lead the respondent into an answer.
When developing a question think of all the possible answers. Use these possible answers as response bands. This may require qualitative research to provide the appropriate list of potential answers.
Even though you may think you have catered for every possible response, allow for people who can’t find an appropriate pre-code with a band labelled “other”.
When collecting numeric responses such as the number of employees at a company, the age of respondent, the amount that is spent on products, etc, use response bands.
Make the questions specific. For example, be specific about time periods. Avoid ambiguous words such as “frequently” which may have no specific meaning.
Steer clear of sophisticated or uncommon words. Avoid jargon, acronyms or anything that isn’t in common speech.
If possible, avoid hypothetical questions. If you do include questions such as “How likely are you to…?”, recognise that the answers may not be reliable.
Avoid grids which are in effect multiple questions. It is better to ask questions one by one even though this will take longer.
Consider using a variety of types of questions in order to break up the monotony of tedious “scores out of 10”.
Consider the sequencing of the questions bearing in mind it is always best to begin with those that are easy and to place more difficult or sensitive questions later in the questionnaire. Keep questions of a certain theme together in the questionnaire.
Be careful in in the use of open ended questions in online surveys. They are likely to deliver thin answers.
In online questionnaires, think of ways of making the questions attractive. The use of colour, sliding scales and imaginative questions will reduce respondent fatigue.
A questionnaire with more than 30 questions and which takes more than 10 minutes could lose the interest of respondents.
For those who want to know more about questionnaire design, take a look at our white papers on the subject or consult Market Research In Practice (3rd edition) written by senior staff at B2B International.
Further reading on questionnaire design: