Questionnaire Design Boot Camp: An Introduction to Survey Writing

Jessica Broome, Opinion researcher and research evangelist

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6 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Finding and Operationalizing your Objective

    • 3. Applying the Response Process Model

    • 4. Some survey dos and don'ts

    • 5. Key Points About Answers

    • 6. Questionnaire from Soup to Nuts


Project Description

Create a Usable and Useful Questionnaire

Finding and Operationalizing Your Objective

  1. Answer three key questions

    Write a sentence or two answering three questions:

    1. What do I want to know?

    2. Who do I want to talk to?

    3. What am I going to do with the results?

  2. Sketch out some questions and answer options

    Brainstorm 5-25 questions and response options. Make sure you include questions to ensure that you are talking to the right people, and that your questions will help you get to your objective.

Fine-tuning Your Questions: Applying the Response Process Model

  1. Apply the Response Process Model

    For each of your draft questions, walk through the 5 steps of the Response Process Model.

    • Is what you are asking something people will be aware of?
    • Is the question understandable?
    • Will respondents remember the information?
    • Do potential responses fit into the categories you are offering?
    • Will people have any hesitation in answering your question? 

    Make notes of any places the response process model might break down for your questions.  Pre-test these questions with someone who looks as much like your respondents as possible; ask them how clear the questions were, and how they reached their answers.

Perfecting your Questions: Some Things to do and Some Things to Avoid

  1. Revise your questions

    In this step, you'll be moving your questions closer to final form using the principles covered in this unit. Time test your questionnaire, and be honest with yourself when answering questions like:

    What questions can I cut?

    How can I simplify my questions?

    Do I have long sets of questions I can reduce or cut into pieces?

    Does the order make sense?

    Do I have any double barreled questions?

Perfecting Your Answers: Some Key Points

  1. Revisit your answer choices and scales

    For each question, visit your answers and revise if necessary.

    If you are using open ended questions, are you sure this is the best approach? How will you analyze the data?

    For scaled questions, do your labels or numbers fit your purpose? Will respondents understand or misinterpret your scale?

    If using answer categories, are they mutually exclusive and completely comprhensive?

    Do your answer categories match your question?

Putting it all Together: Questionnaires From Soup to Nuts

  1. Outline your process

    Outline your research process from start to finish:

    1. Who are your respondents? How will you find them?

    2. How will people respond to your survey?

    3. How will you compile your data for analysis?

    Finalize your questionnaire:

    1. Add up-front language

    2. Add instructions where necessary

    3. Add ending language

Additional Resources
  • Slides from unit 1: Finding and Operationalizing your Objective

  • Some links to DIY survey programs (most have a "free" option, but beware the limitations):

  • Slides from Unit 2: Applying the Response Process Model

  • Slides from unit 3: Things to do and things to avoid in your questions

  • Slides from unit 4: Key Points about Answers

  • Slides for unit 5: Questionnaires from Soup to Nuts

Student Projects