How to write a good questionnaire

There are many reasons why you might need to design a questionnaire as a business owner.  Perhaps you want to gather some feedback from your customers?  Or perhaps you are testing the market for a new product or service?  Whatever the reason, writing a clear, concise and unbiased questionnaire can be a tricky task.

Here are my top tips:

1. Set objectives

Before you even consider embarking on writing your questionnaire, it’s really important to set some objectives for your primary research.  What is it you want to find out, and why?  Write this down and refine it as much as possible.  This will help you to write concise questions, remain focused and avoid covering irrelevant topics.

2. Consider your target audience

It’s also important to think about who the respondents are going to be, as this may affect the number or wording of your questions, the survey structure, format or delivery.  For instance, if you are sampling elderly people, you should probably deliver your survey on paper, as opposed to online.  Conversely, if you are targeting under 18’s, you would almost certainly be best using an online method, such as SurveyMonkey, and promoting the survey through social media.  You might also want to think about how much time these people have on their hands; both mums and business owners are busy people, so keep it brief.

3. Consider how the data will be used and analysed

This will determine the type of questions that you want to ask and the format in which you ask them.   Will you ask closed questions or open questions?  Will you use multiple choice or a likert scale? Do you want statistics that give an overview of the responses from the sample, or long answers that give rich, qualitative data?  Continually refer back to your objectives for the research when making these decisions.

4. Put the respondent at ease

Structure your questionnaire with one or two easy questions at the start to relax the respondent and encourage them to continue with the survey.  Always put sensitive questions at the end, for similar reasons.  Asking personal, intrusive questions up front may put a respondent off completing the survey entirely.

5. Give good directions

Include an introductory paragraph to explain the purpose and general theme of your survey. Assure the respondent about their anonymity and the confidentiality of their answers if appropriate.  Introduce each section and make it clear where the respondent needs to go next; don’t give them any reason to leave their survey incomplete!

7. Don’t ask leading questions

When you have a vested interest in the results of a survey, it can be tempting to word the questions so that responses reflect your desired outcome.  For a true response, it’s imperative to write questions with a neutral tone and no bias (particularly if you intend to base business decisions upon the results!). If in doubt, keep the questions themselves completely objective and include all possible options in your multiple choice answers.

Have you conducted primary research before? Was it successful? Do you have any other tips for survey design? Leave a comment!

If you are planning some research and would like some help or advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch!



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