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How to Develop a Questionnaire for Research

Last Updated: December 4, 2022 Fact Checked

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 24 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 586,573 times. Learn more...

A questionnaire is a technique for collecting data in which a respondent provides answers to a series of questions. [1] X Research source To develop a questionnaire that will collect the data you want takes effort and time. However, by taking a step-by-step approach to questionnaire development, you can come up with an effective means to collect data that will answer your unique research question.

Designing Your Questionnaire

Step 1 Identify the goal of your questionnaire.

  • Come up with a research question. It can be one question or several, but this should be the focal point of your questionnaire.
  • Develop one or several hypotheses that you want to test. The questions that you include on your questionnaire should be aimed at systematically testing these hypotheses.

Step 2 Choose your question type or types.

  • Dichotomous question: this is a question that will generally be a “yes/no” question, but may also be an “agree/disagree” question. It is the quickest and simplest question to analyze, but is not a highly sensitive measure.
  • Open-ended questions: these questions allow the respondent to respond in their own words. They can be useful for gaining insight into the feelings of the respondent, but can be a challenge when it comes to analysis of data. It is recommended to use open-ended questions to address the issue of “why.” [2] X Research source
  • Multiple choice questions: these questions consist of three or more mutually-exclusive categories and ask for a single answer or several answers. [3] X Research source Multiple choice questions allow for easy analysis of results, but may not give the respondent the answer they want.
  • Rank-order (or ordinal) scale questions: this type of question asks your respondent to rank items or choose items in a particular order from a set. For example, it might ask your respondents to order five things from least to most important. These types of questions forces discrimination among alternatives, but does not address the issue of why the respondent made these discriminations. [4] X Research source
  • Rating scale questions: these questions allow the respondent to assess a particular issue based on a given dimension. You can provide a scale that gives an equal number of positive and negative choices, for example, ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” [5] X Research source These questions are very flexible, but also do not answer the question “why.”

Step 3 Develop questions for your questionnaire.

  • Write questions that are succinct and simple. You should not be writing complex statements or using technical jargon, as it will only confuse your respondents and lead to incorrect responses.
  • Ask only one question at a time. This will help avoid confusion
  • Asking questions such as these usually require you to anonymize or encrypt the demographic data you collect.
  • Determine if you will include an answer such as “I don’t know” or “Not applicable to me.” While these can give your respondents a way of not answering certain questions, providing these options can also lead to missing data, which can be problematic during data analysis.
  • Put the most important questions at the beginning of your questionnaire. [7] X Research source This can help you gather important data even if you sense that your respondents may be becoming distracted by the end of the questionnaire.

Step 4 Restrict the length of your questionnaire.

  • Only include questions that are directly useful to your research question. [9] X Trustworthy Source Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations Specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for leading international efforts to end world hunger and improve nutrition Go to source A questionnaire is not an opportunity to collect all kinds of information about your respondents.
  • Avoid asking redundant questions. This will frustrate those who are taking your questionnaire.

Step 5 Identify your target demographic.

  • Consider if you want your questionnaire to collect information from both men and women. Some studies will only survey one sex.
  • Consider including a range of ages in your target demographic. For example, you can consider young adult to be 18-29 years old, adults to be 30-54 years old, and mature adults to be 55+. Providing the an age range will help you get more respondents than limiting yourself to a specific age.
  • Consider what else would make a person a target for your questionnaire. Do they need to drive a car? Do they need to have health insurance? Do they need to have a child under 3? Make sure you are very clear about this before you distribute your questionnaire.

Step 6 Ensure you can protect privacy.

  • Consider an anonymous questionnaire. You may not want to ask for names on your questionnaire. This is one step you can take to prevent privacy, however it is often possible to figure out a respondent’s identity using other demographic information (such as age, physical features, or zipcode).
  • Consider de-identifying the identity of your respondents. Give each questionnaire (and thus, each respondent) a unique number or word, and only refer to them using that new identifier. Shred any personal information that can be used to determine identity.
  • Remember that you do not need to collect much demographic information to be able to identify someone. People may be wary to provide this information, so you may get more respondents by asking less demographic questions (if it is possible for your questionnaire).
  • Make sure you destroy all identifying information after your study is complete.

Writing your questionnaire

Step 1 Introduce yourself.

  • My name is Jack Smith and I am one of the creators of this questionnaire. I am part of the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, where I am focusing in developing cognition in infants.
  • I’m Kelly Smith, a 3rd year undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico. This questionnaire is part of my final exam in statistics.
  • My name is Steve Johnson, and I’m a marketing analyst for The Best Company. I’ve been working on questionnaire development to determine attitudes surrounding drug use in Canada for several years.

Step 2 Explain the purpose of the questionnaire.

  • I am collecting data regarding the attitudes surrounding gun control. This information is being collected for my Anthropology 101 class at the University of Maryland.
  • This questionnaire will ask you 15 questions about your eating and exercise habits. We are attempting to make a correlation between healthy eating, frequency of exercise, and incidence of cancer in mature adults.
  • This questionnaire will ask you about your recent experiences with international air travel. There will be three sections of questions that will ask you to recount your recent trips and your feelings surrounding these trips, as well as your travel plans for the future. We are looking to understand how a person’s feelings surrounding air travel impact their future plans.

Step 3 Reveal what will happen with the data you collect.

  • Beware that if you are collecting information for a university or for publication, you may need to check in with your institution’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for permission before beginning. Most research universities have a dedicated IRB staff, and their information can usually be found on the school’s website.
  • Remember that transparency is best. It is important to be honest about what will happen with the data you collect.
  • Include an informed consent for if necessary. Note that you cannot guarantee confidentiality, but you will make all reasonable attempts to ensure that you protect their information. [12] X Research source

Step 4 Estimate how long the questionnaire will take.

  • Time yourself taking the survey. Then consider that it will take some people longer than you, and some people less time than you.
  • Provide a time range instead of a specific time. For example, it’s better to say that a survey will take between 15 and 30 minutes than to say it will take 15 minutes and have some respondents quit halfway through.
  • Use this as a reason to keep your survey concise! You will feel much better asking people to take a 20 minute survey than you will asking them to take a 3 hour one.

Step 5 Describe any incentives that may be involved.

  • Incentives can attract the wrong kind of respondent. You don’t want to incorporate responses from people who rush through your questionnaire just to get the reward at the end. This is a danger of offering an incentive. [13] X Research source
  • Incentives can encourage people to respond to your survey who might not have responded without a reward. This is a situation in which incentives can help you reach your target number of respondents. [14] X Research source
  • Consider the strategy used by SurveyMonkey. Instead of directly paying respondents to take their surveys, they offer 50 cents to the charity of their choice when a respondent fills out a survey. They feel that this lessens the chances that a respondent will fill out a questionnaire out of pure self-interest. [15] X Research source
  • Consider entering each respondent in to a drawing for a prize if they complete the questionnaire. You can offer a 25$ gift card to a restaurant, or a new iPod, or a ticket to a movie. This makes it less tempting just to respond to your questionnaire for the incentive alone, but still offers the chance of a pleasant reward.

Step 6 Make sure your questionnaire looks professional.

  • Always proof read. Check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
  • Include a title. This is a good way for your respondents to understand the focus of the survey as quickly as possible.
  • Thank your respondents. Thank them for taking the time and effort to complete your survey.

Distributing Your Questionnaire

Step 1 Do a pilot study.

  • Was the questionnaire easy to understand? Were there any questions that confused you?
  • Was the questionnaire easy to access? (Especially important if your questionnaire is online).
  • Do you feel the questionnaire was worth your time?
  • Were you comfortable answering the questions asked?
  • Are there any improvements you would make to the questionnaire?

Step 2 Disseminate your questionnaire.

  • Use an online site, such as SurveyMonkey.com. This site allows you to write your own questionnaire with their survey builder, and provides additional options such as the option to buy a target audience and use their analytics to analyze your data. [19] X Research source
  • Consider using the mail. If you mail your survey, always make sure you include a self-addressed stamped envelope so that the respondent can easily mail their responses back. Make sure that your questionnaire will fit inside a standard business envelope.
  • Conduct face-to-face interviews. This can be a good way to ensure that you are reaching your target demographic and can reduce missing information in your questionnaires, as it is more difficult for a respondent to avoid answering a question when you ask it directly.
  • Try using the telephone. While this can be a more time-effective way to collect your data, it can be difficult to get people to respond to telephone questionnaires.

Step 3 Include a deadline.

  • Make your deadline reasonable. Giving respondents up to 2 weeks to answer should be more than sufficient. Anything longer and you risk your respondents forgetting about your questionnaire.
  • Consider providing a reminder. A week before the deadline is a good time to provide a gentle reminder about returning the questionnaire. Include a replacement of the questionnaire in case it has been misplaced by your respondent. [20] X Research source

Community Q&A

Community Answer

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  • ↑ https://www.questionpro.com/blog/what-is-a-questionnaire/
  • ↑ https://www.hotjar.com/blog/open-ended-questions/
  • ↑ https://www.questionpro.com/a/showArticle.do?articleID=survey-questions
  • ↑ https://surveysparrow.com/blog/ranking-questions-examples/
  • ↑ https://www.lumoa.me/blog/rating-scale/
  • ↑ http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Soc_survey.shtml
  • ↑ http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/hdr/design/2.4.3.html
  • ↑ http://www.fao.org/docrep/W3241E/w3241e05.htm
  • ↑ http://managementhelp.org/businessresearch/questionaires.htm
  • ↑ https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/survey-rewards/
  • ↑ http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/how-to-develop-a-questionnaire
  • ↑ https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/take-a-tour/?ut_source=header

About This Article

To develop a questionnaire for research, identify the main objective of your research to act as the focal point for the questionnaire. Then, choose the type of questions that you want to include, and come up with succinct, straightforward questions to gather the information that you need to answer your questions. Keep your questionnaire as short as possible, and identify a target demographic who you would like to answer the questions. Remember to make the questionnaires as anonymous as possible to protect the integrity of the person answering the questions! For tips on writing out your questions and distributing the questionnaire, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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  1. How to Develop a Questionnaire for Research: 15 Steps

    Come up with a research question. It can be one question or several, but this should be the focal point of your questionnaire. Develop one or several hypotheses that you want to test. The questions that you include on your questionnaire should be aimed at systematically testing these hypotheses. 2.