Questionnaires are frequently used in quantitative marketing research. They are a valuable method of collecting a wide range of information from a large number of respondents. Good questionnaire construction is critical to the success of a survey. Inappropriate questions, incorrect ordering of questions, incorrect scaling, or bad questionnaire format can make the survey valueless. A useful method for checking a questionnaire for problems is to pretest it. This usually involves giving it to a small sample of respondents, then interviewing the respondents to get their impressions and to confirm that the questions accurately captured their opinions.
How should the questions be presented on the page (or computer screen)? How much white space? How many colours? Do you use pictures, charts, or other graphics? It should be colourful enough to gain and maintain respondent interest, but not so graphic as to distract from the of the questions.
Should questions be open-ended or should respondents’ answers be limited to a fixed set of responses?
What order should the questions be in? Is there a “natural” grouping to the questions? Will previous questions bias later questions?
Should the questions be numbered? Generally this is a good idea.
Are possible responses mutually exclusive? The respondent should not find themselves in more than one category, for example in both the “married” category and the “not living with spouse” category. Categories should not overlap.
Is the list of possible question responses inclusive? The respondent should not find themselves with no category that fits their situation.
Is the questionnaire going to be administered by research staff, or will it be self-administered by the respondents. Self administered questionnaires must give clear, detailed instructions.
Closed ended questions - Respondents’ answers are limited to a fixed set of responses. Most scales are closed ended. Other types of closed ended questions include: * Dichotomous questions - The respondent answers with a “yes” or a “no”. * Multiple choice - The respondent has several option from which to choose.
Open ended questions - No options or predefined categories are suggested. The respondent supplies their own answer without being constrained by a fixed set of possible responses. Examples of types of open ended questions include:
Completely unstructured - For example, “What is your opinion of questionnaires?”
Word association - Words are presented and the respondent mentions the first word that comes to mind.
Sentence completion - Respondents complete an incomplete sentence. For example, “The most important consideration in my decision to buy a new house is . . .”
Story completion - Respondents complete an incomplete story.
Picture completion - Respondents fill in an empty conversation balloon.
Thematic apperception test - Respondents explain a picture or make up a story about what they think is happening in the picture
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