The Good Questionnaire
Questionnaires or surveys as they are more commonly referred to, can be a great method for fact finding and information gathering. Questionnaires are also versatile and dynamic in nature. Versatile in that they can be used no matter the industry, company, language, or culture a potential project may arise, due to the fact that everyone has had exposure to them from an early age. They are dynamic because questionnaires can have any number of questions and those questions can be created in ways that gather opinions, facts, statistical data, etc..
For an effective questionnaire to be formulated its construction must contain the following elements:
Properly Formulated Questions
Depending on the data requirements for your analysis you may choose to formulate your questions in one of two ways, or perhaps utilize combinations of both within your questionnaire.
Open-ended: commonly used to gather detailed information, opinions, or suggestions pertaining to the questionnaire’s topic(s). These questions allow the users to expound on their answer and usually require a sentence or more to fully answer. It is because of these text answer that these forms of questions are hard to parse and require quite a bit of time to read through and analyze to properly obtain useful data.
Closed: commonly used to gather data which can be statistically analyzed due to the fact that the answers to the questions are either yes/no or are limited to a very specific set of possibilities such as multiple choice.
Word Choice and Terminology
No matter where communication takes place there is one overarching requirement to making that communication effective and that is making sure the word choice and terminology of that communication matches that of the target audience. In order for a questionnaire to be effective you must take the time to observe the target audience in order to become familiar with how they communicate and utilize this when creating questionnaires.
Scaling questions allow you to add dimension to a question by applying units of value to the questions possible answers. When utilizing scales you must validate that those scales are going to provide you with the accurate and reliable data you are looking for.
When constructing your questionnaire it is important to think about the order in which your questions flow throughout the questionnaire. This is due to the fact that the individuals answering those questions can truly be affected by the ordering. Some negative affects can be boredom if questions unimportant to them are first, or question bias if two questions which affect each other are placed next to each other.