The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part I

Motto: „How often do you prefer not to think hard about the questions you ask?

a) Always b) In Most Cases c) Sometimes d) Soft

There’s a way of doing the right things in the right way. Fortunately for me, I’ve been to a good school for formulating items in questionnaire design and I must tell you the best way for being ethical about this is to do it the right way. There is no room for creativity in the beginning. If you want to explore research methodology, I congratulate you, but chances are, if you’re not a researcher by profession, you won’t choose to do that. Keep your creativity for formulating items. I will guide you through the important things to consider while doing this process.

First of all, any questionnaire, weather psychological or for marketing, has a niche. A target, well defined, like the advertising agencies do it. As a personal note, I think the most advanced profiling system is being done by Leo Burnett (excepting, of course, some of the branding agencies, which might have more advanced tools).

Which are the goals of the questionnaire? Depending on what you want to find out, you can have one or more goals. But keep in mind a questionnaire cannot cover all the possible things you would be interested in. Once, a corporate HR manager came to me and she told me she wanted an instrument to measure job performance of present employees and to evaluate their potential to attain higher positions in the company. I told her she had to decide. There is a structure for putting questions for evaluating one’s potential and there is another structure for evaluating present performance. Present performance is evaluated through effectiveness in relation to the job description, to the objective results and to the peers and potential evaluation is something rather closer to the job specification and it requires a psychological approach in questionnaire design.

This may seem natural, but, amazingly, over 90 % of the Romanian recruiters who design an interview questionnaire for hiring don’t know what the want to find out. They simply ask classical questions, hoping to hit something relevant. It’s like Ionuţ Ciurea told me once, on the amateurism of beginners: “If you asked a lot of questions, it’s impossible not to hit something”.

Once you have chosen the goals of the questionnaire, decide what type of questions will you use.

  • Will it be qualitative or quantitative research? Will it be mixed?

  • What is the infrastructure for registering answers in a database? Will you choose Excel, Open Office, SPSS, LISREL, or another program?

  • Will the items be opened or on choice?

  • Do you prefer multiple-choice items or bipolar items?

  • Will you use a scale?

  • Will you use a Likert scale in 5 or in 7 grades/points?

  • Will you use an odd number of grades on the scale or will it be even?

  • Why do you prefer to use an odd number, or an even number, for the grades to the scale?

This is not a manual in research, but you should have answers to all of these questions before beginning. This is not rocket science. It’s common-sense before doing a questionnaire. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, DROP THE QUESTIONNAIRE!!! Learn how to do it or give it to someone else. If you do not, chances are you’re going to waste the organization’s time and the responders also. People are not obligated to support your learning process. It’s tough, but that’s how it is.

Please also consider this list of articles in Romanian about research.

Author’s experience in questionnaire design. The Author has worked with a research group developing organizational evaluation tools. From November 2006 to June 2007, he contributed to five questionnaire designs in students’ groups. Also, he has designed the first psychological questionnaire for application in political branding using NLP (Iaşi, 2004), for which project he was awarded the first prize at the students’ contest EconomMix in 2005, the management-marketing section.

Besides that, he has designed psychological questionnaires for own researches on parental education (2005), self-esteem (2007, 2009, 2011), insurance (2009), memory (2009), he enhanced an evaluation questionnaire for career consulting (2008).

The author can be contacted for questionnaire design consulting services at marcus.victor.grant [at] gmail [dot] com

Marcus Victor Grant

Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, 2012-present

One thought on “The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part I

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.