What Is a Questionnaire?

A questionnaire is a research instrument designed to obtain specific information from a large sample of people. It contains a standardized set of questions, often called as items, that follow a fixed scheme to ensure that the data collected remains relevant to the particular topic. Questionnaires provide an efficient way of gathering information by allowing researchers to carry out a research survey or interview through a variety of channels—be it by telephone, computer, or post. When conducting one-on-one interviews with a group of respondents seems impractical to you, distributing questionnaires to your audience would be a better option. This helps you measure the behavior, attitudes, opinions, and intentions of your subjects more effectively compared to other research methods.

Types of Questions and Questionnaires

Questionnaires are typically classified according to the nature of their questions. Close-ended questions with multiple-choice options are used to acquire quantitative results, while the answers generated from open-ended questions are best for qualitative outcomes. Choosing the right questions to ask will greatly affect the kind of answers you get. This will also determine the success of your efforts in garnering information from a predefined group of respondents.

The art of asking questions is a complicated one. If you want to ask the right questions that will give you the information you need for your study, it’s imperative to begin by getting to know its basic types.

Below are the common types of questions included in a questionnaire.

Open Questions: With open-ended questions, you’re always in for a surprise. People have an opinion for everything, which is why open questions are designed to produce original and more valuable results that will make your research unique. Asking respondents to supply their own answers also gives them the freedom to express themselves in a way that may be useful to your study. But considering how diverse these answers are likely to be, the findings of these questions will also be difficult to compile and analyze. Multiple-Choice Questions: These are questions that ask respondents to choose between two or more options. While respondents may find them a lot easier to answer, they don’t exactly address the issue of why. Respondents may find it difficult to assess which answer is closest to what they want as well. In some cases, they might not even like any of the choices available. This will only make it confusing and boring, discouraging people from completing the questionnaire. Dichotomous Questions: Contrary to open questions, dichotomous questions only obtain yes or no answers. This prevents ambiguity by keeping answers specific and direct to the point. While it’s quick at getting results, the major drawback brought by these questions is how it does not leave room for a certain degree of sensitivity and differentiation. This will force people to decide whether their “maybe” means a hard “yes” or a solid “no.” Scaling Questions: We all like to assess an issue based on different dimensions. Questionnaires that allow respondents to rank their answers based on a scale of positive and negative choices make it easy for people to choose a response that matches their exact feelings. The Likert-type scales and semantic differential scales are commonly used for this purpose.

Now that we know what kind of questions go in a questionnaire, let’s look into the different types of questionnaires you’re likely to encounter.

Computer Questionnaire: Companies often conduct surveys through email marketing. Questionnaires are sent via email to a selected group of respondents in which they are asked to complete the survey as part of a study. Incentives are also given in return for one’s participation. Although it’s a quick way of distributing your questionnaires to people from outside your location, the challenge comes with prompting people to respond to your questionnaire as opposed to ignoring it. Telephone Questionnaire: Calling a potential respondent to answer your questionnaire is a method that some researchers choose to do. Not only can it be completed within a shorter span of time, but it also allows you to expound a few points deemed unclear to some respondents. However, telephone questionnaires tend to be more costly to carry out due to the time and resources required to administer it. Moreover, having to answer a lot of questions over the phone might not be a welcoming idea to some individuals. In-House Questionnaire: As a more conventional method of gathering data, this involves the researcher making on-site visits to respondents in their houses or workplaces. This allows researchers to provide assistance to respondents who have questions or concerns that they’d want to raise. You can also review the questionnaire before leaving to ensure that no questions were missed by mistake. Mail Questionnaire: Call it old-fashioned, but you’d be surprised by how often researchers send questionnaires to a sample of people through mail. A prepaid envelope is usually attached to these questionnaires to make sure that respondents don’t think twice about sending it back. Mail questionnaires often provide accurate answers since it gives people more time to answer it without the pressure of someone waiting around for you to finish.

Consumer Questionnaire Samples

Have a look at these samples to see how consumer questionnaires are structured and used for market research.

What to Consider When Creating a Questionnaire

Getting to know your customers is an extensive process that doesn’t happen overnight. Who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, and how they feel about a particular subject are just some of the things you can discover by using a questionnaire. Taking the time to communicate with consumers enables you to better understand their behavior, attitude, and perception toward matters that are important to you. But after spending endless hours crafting a questionnaire, the last thing you would want to get is a response rate as low as 5%. There are a number of factors to consider in designing a questionnaire, these are as follows.

1Objectives: The questions you ask must address the primary aims of your research. While there might be a lot to find out about, make sure to prioritize your questions depending on their relevance to the topic. Keeping it as specific and direct as possible is one way to avoid obscurity as well. It’s best to ask a single question per item so that readers don’t get confused by what you are really trying to convey. 2Length: Long questionnaires take time and effort to finish, which is why people are less likely to complete them. Some individuals even choose to ignore the questionnaire as an easy way out. Keep in mind that while consumers may benefit from the questionnaire one way or another, they aren’t obligated to participate if they don’t want to. So to avoid this, you need to keep your questions short yet logical. Make it clear enough to understand without having to explain your question even further for readers to grasp your message. 3Pilot Study: It’s always a good idea to do a test run with your questionnaire. This will uncover gaps in your system by identifying the areas that respondents appear to struggle with. You can gather a small group of people for a practice session and ask them for honest feedback on the questionnaire design. You can take these opinions into consideration to help improve your questionnaire for better, more accurate results. 4Question Order: This is something that researchers have repeatedly done wrong. You see, the order of your questions can greatly affect how respondents feel about your questionnaire. For instance, starting your interview with a sensitive question will only overwhelm a person. It’s easy for readers to assume that the questions that follow it will be just as intimidating, given how your introduction was far from welcoming. From general to specific, factual and behavioral to cognitive, the flow of your questionnaire should remain as logical as possible. 5Language: Keep technical jargon to a minimum. Use statements that are simple, concise, and easy to interpret. It’s always best to adapt to the type of audience being studied. It should be appropriate to the vocabulary and social background of the respondent’s age group, social class, ethnicity, industry, or any of the like. 6Presentation: One way to prompt respondents to answer your questionnaire is to make it presentable. Messy layouts will only produce unreliable results. If you want people to take it more seriously, you need to make it look professional by including clear instructions for each section of your questionnaire.

Regardless of your intentions for creating the questionnaire, you must still ensure that the information provided by respondents remains confidential. People should feel comfortable about answering each question without fear of it being used against them. Consumers are a huge part of your success, so make sure their rights and needs are protected and prioritized at all times.