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A questionnaire is a series of questions asked to individuals to obtain statistically useful information about a given topic. When properly constructed and responsibly administered, questionnaires become a vital instrument by which statements can be made about specific groups or people or entire populations. Questionnaires are frequently used in quantitative marketing research and social research. They are a valuable method of collecting a wide range of information from a large number of individuals, often referred to as respondents. Adequate 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, as it may not accurately reflect the views and opinions of the participants. A useful method for checking a questionnaire and making sure it is accurately capturing captu ring the intended information informa tion is to pre-test pre-test among a smaller subset subs et of target respondents. As a mechanism mechanism for obtaining information and opinion, questionnaires have a number of advantages and disadvantages when compared with other evaluation tools. The key strengths and weaknesses of questionnaires are summarised in bullet points below. In general, questionnaires are effective mechanisms for efficient collection of certain kinds of information. They are not, however, a comprehensive means of evaluation and should be used to support and supplement other procedures for evaluating and improving teaching. Advantages of questionnaires y

They permit respondents time to consider their responses carefully without interference from, for example, an interviewer.

y

Cost. It is possible to provide questionnaires to large numbers of people simultaneously.

y

Uniformity. Each respondent respond ent receives the identical identica l set of questions. questio ns. With closed clos ed-form

questions, responses are standardised, which can assist in interpreting from large numbers of respondents. y

Can

address a large number of issues and questions of concern in a relatively efficient way,

with the possibility of a high response rate. y

Often,

questionnaires are designed so that answers to questions are scored and scores

summed to obtain an overall measure of the attitudes and opinions of the respondent. y

They may be mailed to respondents (although this approach may lower the response rate).

y

They permit anonymity. It is usually argued that anonymity increases the rate of response and may increase the likelihood that responses reflect genuinely held opinions.

Disadvantages of questionnaires y

It may be difficult to obtain a good response rate.

Often

there is no strong motivation for

respondents to respond. y

They are complex instruments and, if badly designed, can be misleading.

y

They are an unsuitable method of evaluation if probing is required  there is usually no real possibility for follow-up on answers.

y

Quality of data is probably not as high as with alternative methods of data collection, such as personal interviewing.

y

They can be misused  a mistake is to try to read too much into questionnaire results.

Q uestionnaire construction issues y

Know

how (and whether) you will use the results of your research before you start. If, for

example, the results won't influence your decision or you can't afford to implement the findings or the cost of the research outweighs its usefulness, then save your time and money; don't bother doing the research. y

The research objectives and frame of reference should be defined beforehand, including the questionnaire's context of time, budget, manpower, intrusion and privacy.

y

How

(randomly or not) and from where (your sampling frame) you select the respondents

will determine whether you will be able to generalize your findings to the larger population. y

The nature of the expected responses should be defined and retained for interpretation of  the responses, be it preferences (of products or services), facts, beliefs, feelings, descriptions of past behaviour, or standards of action.

y

Unneeded

questions are an expense to the researcher and an unwelcome imposition on the

respondents. All questions should contribute to the objective(s) of the research. y

If you "research backwards" and determine what you want to say in the report (i.e., Package A is more/less preferred by X% of the sample vs. Package B, and y% compared to Package C) then even though you don't know the exact answers yet, you will be certain to ask all the questions you need - and only the ones you need - in such a way (metrics) to write your report.

y

The topics should fit the respondents frame of reference. Their background may affect their interpretation of the questions. Respondents should have enough information or expertise to answer the questions truthfully.

y

The type of scale, index, or typology to be used shall be determined.

y

The level of measurement you use will determine what you can do with and conclude from the data. If the response option is yes/no then you will only know how many or what percent of your sample answered yes/no. You cannot, however, conclude what the average respondent answered.

y

The types of questions (closed, multiple-choice, open) should fit the statistical data analysis techniques available and your goals.

y

Questions and prepared responses to choose from should be neutral as to intended outcome. A biased question or questionnaire encourages respondents to answer one way rather than another. Even questions without bias may leave respondents with expectations.

y

The order or natural grouping of questions is often relevant. Prior previous questions may bias later questions.

y

The wording should be kept simple: no technical or specialized words.

y

The meaning should be clear. Ambiguous words, equivocal sentence structures and negatives may cause misunderstanding, possibly invalidating questionnaire results. Double negatives should be reworded as positives.

y

If a survey question actually contains more than one issue, the researcher will not know which one the respondent is answering. Care should be taken to ask one question at a time.

y

The list of possible responses should be collectively exhaustive. Respondents should not find themselves with no category that fits their situation.

One

solution is to use a final category

for other ________. y

The possible responses should also be mutually exclusive.

Categories

should not overlap.

Respondents should not find themselves in more than one category, for example in both the married category and the single category - there may be need for separate questions on marital status and living situation. y

Writing style should be conversational, yet concise and accurate and appropriate to the target audience.

y

Many

people will not answer personal or intimate questions. For this reason, questions

about age, income, marital status, etc. are generally placed at the end of the survey. This way, even if the respondent refuses to answer these "personal" questions, he/she will have already answered the research questions. y

Loaded questions evoke emotional responses and may skew results.

y

Presentation of the questions on the page (or computer screen) and use of white space, colours, pictures, charts, or other graphics may affect respondent's interest or distract from the questions.

y

Numbering

of questions may be helpful.

y

Questionnaires can be administered by research staff, by volunteers or self-administered by the respondents. Clear, detailed instructions are needed in either case, matching the needs of each audience.

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