The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part II

Once defined an audience, step into their shoes. Create items in such a manner that your responder knows what to answer very clearly. Use words (s)he will understand. For example, suppose you want to test someone’s knowledge of pricing in marketing. In that case, it’s preferable to ask: “How do you decide the price of a product?” rather than “What would be your elaborate strategy for recommending a pricing scheme according to the market, organizational requirements, and financial parameters?”. Think simple. Let your questions clearly state what you desire from that person. Before doing pretesting, use your common sense. How would you answer that question if you were asked as a responder? That is the most important frame of mind to consider when doing a questionnaire because sometimes people create questionnaires without a clear purpose of what they want to know.

What would be the questions to ask yourself before formulating any items?

  • What is the final structure in which I will process the answer to this question?

  • How am I going to use the specific information from this question?

  • How will I correlate the answer from this item with responses to other items? How can I formulate questions in such a manner to help find better what I want?

  • What is the best item type I can use to structure this question?

  • What would be a better question to find the same answer I’m going after?

Another common sense thing to consider is to use logic when creating items.

Let’s say you formulate an item with multiple-choice, addressed to present employees with only one correct answer, to evaluate the organizational environment in an office with 40 people annually. This item is one of those which is designed into the subjective individual perception over group behavior category.


Poor item conceptualization

1. How often do you usually feel tension at work around colleagues when starting to work?

  1. daily

  2. pretty often

  3. sometimes

  4. rarely

2. To whom do you attribute this pressure?

  1. to the boss

  2. to the colleagues

  3. to other departments

  4. to work itself

  5. to the family

Can these items be functional? Just in appearance. The truth is these are some very poorly conceived items.

What’s poor in these two linked items?

(keep reading ↓)

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. 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 marcus.victor.grant [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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