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, I’ve been to a good school for formulating items in questionnaire design, and I must tell you the best way to be 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, you won’t choose to do that if you’re not a researcher by profession. So keep your creativity for formulating items. I will guide you through the essential things to consider during this process.

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

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

Amazingly, this may seem natural, but over 90 % of the Romanian recruiters who design an interview questionnaire for hiring don’t know what they want to find out. So instead, 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 ask 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 you will 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 on the scale?

This is not 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. You will also waste the organization’s time and the responders if you do not. 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 designed the first psychological questionnaire for application in political branding using NLP (Iaşi, 2004). For that 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 his own research on parental education (2005), self-esteem (2007, 2009, 2011), insurance (2009), and memory (2009); he enhanced an evaluation questionnaire for career consulting (2008).

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

Marcus Victor Grant

Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2012-present, all rights reserved.

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.




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