10 Steps Towards Designing a Questionnaire, By Juliet Mumford, Intelligent Insight
Market research is all about reducing your business risks through the smart use of information. It is often cited that 'knowledge is power', and through market research you will have the power to discover new business opportunities, closely monitor your competitors, effectively develop products and services, and target your customers in the most cost-efficient way.
However in order to get useful results you need to make sure you are asking the right questions to the right people and in the right way. The following tips are designed to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls when designing a market research questionnaire.
1. What are you trying to find out?
- A good questionnaire is designed so that your results will tell you what you want to find out.
- Start by writing down what you are trying to do in a few clear sentences, and design your questionnaire around this.
2. How are you going to use the information?
- There is no point conducting research if the results aren’t going to be used – make sure you know why you are asking the questions in the first place.
- Make sure you cover everything you will need when it come to analysing the answers. e.g. maybe you want to compare answers given by men and women. You can only do this if you’ve remembered to record the gender of each respondent on each questionnaire.
3. Telephone, Postal, Web, Face-to-Face?
- There are many methods used to ask questions, and each has its good and bad points. For example, postal surveys can be cheap but responses can be low and can take a long time to receive, face-to-face can be expensive but will generate the fullest responses, web surveys can be cost-effective but hit and miss on response rates, and telephone can be costly, but will often generate high response rates, give fast turnaround and will allow for probing.
4. Qualitative or Quantitative?
- Do you want to focus on the number e.g. 87% of respondents thought this, or are you more interested in interpreting feedback from respondents to bring out common themes?
- The method used will generally be determined by the subject matter you are researching and the types of respondents you will be contacting.
5. Keep it short. In fact, quite often the shorter the better.
- We are all busy, and as a general rule people are less likely to answer a long questionnaire than a short one.
- If you are going to be asking your customers to answer your questionnaire in-store, make sure the interview is no longer than 10 minutes maximum (this will be about 10 to 15 questions).
- If your questionnaire is too long, try to remove some questions. Read each question and ask, "How am I going to use this information?" If you don’t know, don’t include it!
6. Use simple and direct language.
- The questions must be clearly understood by the respondent. The wording of a question should be simple and to the point. Do not use uncommon words or long sentences.
7. Start with something general.
- Respondents will be put-off and may even refuse to complete your questionnaire if you ask questions that are too personal at the start (e.g. questions about financial matters, age, even whether or not they are married).
8. Place the most important questions in the first half of the questionnaire.
- Respondents sometimes only complete part of a questionnaire. By putting the most important items near the beginning, the partially completed questionnaires will still contain important information.
9. Leave enough space to record the answers.
- If you are going to include questions which may require a long answer e.g. ask someone why they do a particular thing, then make sure you leave enough room to write in the possible answers. It sounds obvious, but it’s so often overlooked!
10. Test your questionnaire on your colleagues.
- No matter how much time and effort you put into designing your questionnaire, there is no substitute for testing it. Complete some interviews with your colleagues BEFORE you ask the real respondents. This will allow you to time your questionnaire, make any final changes, and get feedback from your colleagues.
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