A questionnaire is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions (or other types of prompts) for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. The questionnaire was invented by the Statistical Society of London in 1838. Questionnaires are a good way of collecting primary data.
Although questionnaires are often designed for statistical analysis of the responses, this is not always the case.
Questionnaires have advantages over some other types of surveys in that they are cheap, do not require as much effort from the questioner as verbal or telephone surveys, and often have standardized answers that make it simple to compile data. However, such standardized answers may frustrate users. Questionnaires are also sharply limited by the fact that respondents must be able to read the questions and respond to them. Thus, for some demographic groups conducting a survey by questionnaire may not be concrete.
Questionnaires are of many types as they may serve various purposes. Generally, a questionnaire is used to gain feedback from a given respondent. A questionnaire is considered to be effective if it has the ability to garner reliable information from the people who willingly answer them. It is an important tool of sampling.
A distinction can be made between questionnaires with questions that measure separate variables, and questionnaires with questions that are aggregated into either a scale or index. Questionnaires with questions that measure separate variables, could for instance include questions on:
- preferences (e.g. political party)
- behaviors (e.g. food consumption)
- facts (e.g. gender)
Questionnaires with questions that are aggregated into either a scale or index, include for instance questions that measure:
- latent traits
- attitudes (e.g. towards immigration)
- an index (e.g. Social Economic Status)
Data Analysis, Questionnaire and Survey
A questionnaire is any written set of questions, while a survey is both the set of questions and the process of collecting, aggregating, and analyzing the responses from those questions. In other words, “questionnaire” describes content, while “survey” is a broader term that describes content, method, and analysis.
The confusion between these terms most likely stems from the fact that questionnaires and data analysis were treated as very separate processes back in the day. Questionnaires used to be completed on paper, and data analysis occurred later on if desired. Nowadays, these processes are typically combined since online survey tools allow for questionnaires to immediately produce data.
However, questionnaires can still be used for reasons other than data analysis. Job applications and medical history forms, among others, are examples of questionnaires that have no intention of being statistically analyzed. This is the key difference between questionnaires and surveys — they can exist together or separately, but when together, a questionnaire is a tool used in a survey.
- Identify a theme. With a theme, you can specify what data needs to be gathered and how these may be acquired in the form of a question.
- Ask simple questions. Be as specific as possible. Your respondents need to be able to answer each question without much deliberation.
- Ask the same question in different ways. There’s always a chance that your respondent may be answering the questionnaire absentmindedly. To assess the reliability of such response, ask the same question several times but in different ways.
- Choose a delivery method. If you want to reach a wider audience, you can distribute your questionnaires through various social networks.
Administering the Questionnaire
Questionnaire examples may be delivered in several different ways. This could be done through interviews, websites, SMS, email, or even through social media. This would depend on the kind of information you wish to obtain as well as the audience you want to reach.
To administer the business questionnaire, you need to be inviting. Doing this personally can be easy, as most people are too polite to refuse. But if you’re using a certain platform for this, you need to come up with a gimmick. Some people opt to to give away freebies to individuals who willingly answer their questionnaires. If you don’t have the budget for such, you can always force your respondents to answer, discreetly that is. Some organizations use pop-ups in their websites to conduct these surveys.
Remember, try not to be too annoying when doing this. Some respondents provide negative feedback when they’re made to answer a questionnaire unwillingly. Not only will this garner unreliable data but you might also lose your customers.
Tips for a Better Questionnaire
- Provide instructions. Tell your respondents how the questionnaire should be answered. Allow them to contact you for any concerns or clarifications.
- Use simple language. Respondents may come from different backgrounds, it’s important to keep your questions as relevant as possible.
- Limit the possible choices. For questions where answers are readily provided, avoid making a long list. Respondents may find it difficult to evaluate each.
- Arrange it in a logical order. Start your questionnaire with general questions before asking specific ones.
- Keep it short. Lengthy questionnaires can be too intimidating to answer. Respondents will feel like they’re answering an exam rather than a survey questionnaire.
- Do a trial run. Allow a few people to answer your questionnaire and ask them for feedback. This will help you point out mistakes and inappropriate questions that need to be edited.