Top Tips for Writing Questionnaires

There are many rules, tips and ideas that can be useful when writing questionnaires. After attending an MRS questionnaire design course, I have selected my top 10 tips.

 

 

START WITH A BASIC OUTLINE

 

Create a questionnaire outline before starting to write out full questions. Highlight which of the objectives each question/section will answer to make sure it is all necessary and nothing is missing. Think about how each question will be charted – so you can understand if it’s really going to be useful and can help work out what scaling to use.

DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS

 

Only put necessary demographic questions (e.g. for quota-ing) at the beginning. Leave the rest to the end where it is easier for respondents to answer (and answer reliably).

QUESTION ORDER

 

Make sure to have the key/important questions as close to beginning as possible (BUT keep the first couple of questions short/easy). Do not leave attitude questions towards the end, as they may be bored/hurrying to finish.

RE-ENGAGE RESPONDENTS FOR QUESTIONS TOWARDS THE END

 

If key questions have to be at the end try to re-engage respondent – e.g. gamification / include an interesting or fun question (keep it relevant to questionnaire topic but doesn’t necessarily need to be one used in analysis).

PROMPTED BRAND AWARENESS QUESTIONS

 

When using spontaneous brand awareness questions – “Brand (don’t know which)” should be at the END of that brand’s section, not the top/start, so respondents aren’t tempted to choose it out of ease / not read the rest of the list.

ORDER OF ANSWER OPTIONS

 

Think about each answer list individually as it can make sense to use different methods of ordering depending on the content. Sometimes it makes most sense to use alphabetical order, sometimes the list contains opposite pairs which should be kept together, sometimes it makes more sense to group sections of similar items.

POSITIONING OF ‘DON’T KNOW’

 

Particularly for online surveys – when including a ‘Don’t know’ option, respondents are more likely to answer with a real response rather than just click ‘Don’t know’ if it is on other side of screen rather than directly below the answer list.

QUESTION LENGTH

 

Online questions should be as short as possible by giving yourself a 10 word limit. Also embed question in answer e.g. instead of “which of the following do you do?” simply use “Do you…?”

ANSWER SCALES

 

Ensure the right scales are chosen: use Semantic rating scales (e.g. 7-Very good, 6-Quite good, etc.) to give a conclusion such as “x% say is very good”. Use Numeric rating scales (e.g. rate on scale 1-10) to give means. It can be ok to have unbalanced scales (if there is good reason) e.g. when researching chocolate – very popular product and there are lots of different chocolates so it makes sense to have more movement in “like” side of scale to distinguish between the different chocolates.

NEGATIVE/POSITIVE SCALES

 

When using a negative/positive scale it is best to use horizontally:

Neg. ————————— Pos

When tested vs flipped version (pos. to neg.), and both vertical possibilities, this gives the biggest variation in answers, so most likely that respondents use whole scale.

Sarah Bruce is a Research Executive in the Product Testing Team at Marketing Sciences Unlimited

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Sarah Bruce
01962 842211
Article date - 02/11/2015
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