Social science research is regarded as the primary tool to illustrate and predict the human behaviour. The outcomes of research contribute to the advancement in the academics and policy making. The results are based on the data collected via questioning the respondents (survey process).
The most crucial part of the survey process is the creation of questionnaire. Inconsistent questions generate ambiguous & incoherent outcome of the research. Therefore, it becomes a necessity to develop an appropriate and organised questionnaire that measures the opinion & behaviour of the public.
Depending on the needs, questionnaire is segregated into structured, unstructured and combination of these two studies is the quasi-structured questionnaire.
- Structured questionnaire includes well-defined pre-coded questions. This can be used to collect quantitative data.
- Unstructured questionnaire includes open-ended, vague opinion-type questions and is commonly used in focus discussions.
- Having a structured questionnaire with a few unstructured questions whose answers are not feasible is known as quasi-structured questionnaire. This type of questionnaire is most commonly used in social science research.
Questionnaire design is a multistage process requiring an eye for details. It is considered as one of the most complicated tasks because surveys demand topics in varying degrees of detail.
Best practices involved in designing a questionnaire
Conducting pilot tests or focus groups in the initial stages of questionnaire development gives a clear idea of what people about the particular issue you are aiming to study.
Step1 – Identify the main goal of your questionnaire. Decide the nature of information(s) you want to collect. Formulate a research question that lies on the focal point of the questionnaire. This is followed by developing a hypothesis that is to be tested. The questions in the questionnaire must test the hypothesis which may be rejected or accepted on the basis of data analysis results.
Step 2 – The next step is to choose the questions. Depending on the information gathered in the previous step, several possible types of questions can be included in the questionnaire.
Some of them are:
- Dichotomous question – This type of question is generally of the form “yes/no” question, or “agree/disagree.” it is highly sensitive and simplest questions to analyse.
- Open-ended question – This type of question allows the respondent to answer the questions in their own words and is commonly used to address the issue of “why.” The advantage of this kind of questions it that it provides insight into the feelings of the respondent.
- Multiple choice question – Mcqs enable easy analysis of results and consists of three or more categories of questions and demand a single answer.
- Rank-order (or ordinal) scale question – Here the respondents are asked to choose or rank items in a particular order from a set. For instance, you can ask the respondent to order 5 things from most to least important.
- Rating scale question – A scale provides an equal number of negative & positive choices such as “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree.” Rating scale questions let the respondent to analyse the specific issue on the basis of a given dimension.
Step 3 – This is the most important stage in the creation of questionnaire. That is the development of questions. The questions developed must be concise, clear, brief and direct. Avoid using technical jargons (until and unless necessary), and complex statements as they may confuse the respondents leading to incorrect responses. Also, avoid asking biased questions and determine if you want to include options such as “not applicable for me.” The most crucial aspect is take immense care while asking for sensitive or personal information. Include them only if they are absolutely necessary.
Step 4 – Development of questions is followed by sequence and skipping. The questions must begin with general and simple ones and then narrow down to specific ones. To build a sense of trust, rapport with your respondents, include common and non-controversial questions in the beginning of the questionnaire.
Step 5 – Once the questions are ready, pen down the questionnaire. This process includes two steps.
- Details about interrogator (the one who asks questions) – Here, you must clarify if you are working as part of a team or as an individual. Include the name of your institution or University. For instance :”My name is Kiran and I am the only creator of this questionnaire. I belong to XYZ school of research.”
- Explain the purpose of your questionnaire – Answering the questionnaire without understanding its purpose is next to impossible task. Many respondents might end up not answering the questions or provide misleading answers. Therefore, provide a brief explanation of your study or the purpose of the questionnaire and help them understand the underlying objective.
Step 6 – Prior to collecting information from the respondents, ask your peers to answers the questions and ask if your questionnaire requires modification or improvement and if the questions are clear enough.
Master the art of developing a questionnaire, reduce errors and gather the required data for your study.