Analytic Vision

The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part I

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 11/03/2012

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 attaining 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 job specification and it requires a psychological approach in questionnaire design.

This may seem natural, but, amazingly, over 90 % of the Romanian recruiters which design an interview questionnaire for hiring don’t know what the want to find out (1). They simply ask classical questions, hoping to hit something relevant. It’s like Ionuţ Ciurea (2) 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 a qualitative research or a 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 to 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 within a research group developing organizational evaluation tools. Since 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 artis_consulting.training [at] yahoo [dot] com


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4 Responses to “The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part I”

  1. […] Vision The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part II 15/03/2012The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part I 11/03/2012Personal development goals in 2012 08/03/2012Job Publishing 16/02/2012Top 10 Yahoo Groups […]

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  2. […] 3. The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part I […]

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  3. Martin said

    This is very helpful. Thanks for taking your time to write this article.

    Like

  4. […] The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part I […]

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