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- A questionnaire is defined as a document containing questions and other types of items designed to solicit information appropriate for analysis.
- The questionnaire may be regarded as a form of an interview on paper.
- Procedure for the construction of a questionnaire follows a pattern similar to that of the interview schedule.
- However, because the questionnaire is impersonal it is all the more important to take care of its construction.
- Since there is no interviewer to explain ambiguities or to check misunderstandings, the questionnaire must be especially clear in its working.
- The variety of possible answers to each question must be anticipated more fully than for an interview.
The Essentials of the Questionnaire Construction
- Questionnaire design is a very crucial and important part of the research because an inappropriate questionnaire misleads the research, academics, and policymaking.
- Therefore, a set of adequate and appropriate questions in a sequential order is required in a questionnaire.
- The format of the questionnaire mostly depends on the type of questionnaire used.
Types of Questionnaire
There are roughly two types of questionnaires, structured and unstructured. A mixture of these both is the quasi-structured questionnaire that is used mostly in social science research.
- Structured questionnaires include pre-coded questions with well-defined skipping patterns to follow the sequence of questions. Most of the quantitative data collection operations use structured questionnaires. Fewer discrepancies, easy to administer consistency in answers and easy for the data management are advantages of such structured questionnaires.
- Unstructured questionnaires include open-ended and vague opinion-type questions. Maybe questions are not in the format of interrogative sentences and the moderator or the enumerator has to elaborate the sense of the question. Focus group discussions use such a questionnaire.
- Not all questions are easily pre-coded with almost possible alternatives to answers. Given answer alternatives of some questions in the standard questionnaires are left as ‘others’ (please specify). A common and pragmatic practice is that most of the questions are structured, however, it is comfortable to have some unstructured questions whose answers are not feasible to enumerate completely. Such a type of questionnaire is called a quasi-structured questionnaire.
The Format of Questionnaire
- It should be smaller in size than that of the schedule.
- The extent in length and breadth should be appropriate.
- It should not be more than two or three pages as to the nature of the research.
- It should be constructed on a good quality paper and printing.
- It should have an attractive layout.
- The questions should be short, clear in terms, tenure, and expression.
- The question should be arranged according to the importance and preference.
- The questions of the questionnaire should be able to keep the interest of the respondents
- The length of the questions of the questionnaire should be as short as possible.
- The questionnaire should not be long in length.
Question Types in a Questionnaire
The questions asked can take two forms:
- Restricted questions, also called closed-ended, are the ones that ask the respondent to make choices — yes or no, check items on a list, or select from multiple choice answers.
Restricted questions are easy to tabulate and compile.
- Unrestricted questions are open-ended and allow respondents to share feelings and opinions that are important to them about the matter at hand.
Unrestricted questions are not easy to tabulate and compile, but they allow respondents to reveal the depth of their emotions.
- If the objective is to compile data from all respondents, then sticking with restricted questions that are easily quantified is better.
- If degrees of emotions or depth of sentiment are to be studied, then develop a scale to quantify those feelings.
Characteristics of Good Questions in a Questionnaire
General rules of question crafting:
- Clear objective
- Simple language
- Clear concepts
- Without bias
- Adequate answer options
- Shorter questions
- The single question at a time
- Affirmative sentences
- Mathematics not imposed
- Short/clear reference periods
- Avoid question reference
Question Types to be avoided in a Questionnaire
- Question without objective
- Each question should have an objective.
The proposed research is to assess the knowledge of respondents on sexually transmitted diseases. If the proposed analytical framework has no consideration of the educational (by discipline) background of the respondent it is futile to ask: “Which subject did you study at university before you joined the recent job?”
- Complex language
- The language of the questionnaire should not be complicated to understand. The vocabulary of the respondents should be used in the questionnaire.
- A simple language is preferred. The use of rhetorical and elite language creates problems while the questionnaire is administered.
Did you realize the complexities of life in a different way by the behavior of your spouse when you were tested positive with HIV/AIDS? Instead, the questions like Do your spouse knows about your HIV positive? (If Yes, Do you find a change in his/her behavior? If Yes, What kind)
- Ambiguous concepts
- Ambiguous concepts should not be incorporated into the questions.
Example: What is your opinion about some medical researches that pledge for the high prevalence of transmission of HIV among the elite group of Nepal after the restoration of a multiparty system? This question has three major elements as medical research, HIV transmission, and restoration of multiparty democracy. Elite group and high prevalence are other minor elements. Respondent would not be able to correctly form his/her opinion.
- Reference of previous questions
It is extremely not suggested to ask the questions like “As I asked in Question number 12 above about ….. “. If reference or cue of previous questions is required to recall the answer of respondents by stating full questions and answers to continue the further interview.
- Longer and vague reference periods
Reference periods should be clear and preferably shorter. Longer reference period causes recall lapse errors. These errors mislead the research.
For example, after the year of a greater earthquake or in these ten years how many times did you visit the health post for antenatal check-ups? Instead ” How many times did you visit health post for a check-up during the period of your last pregnancy (or three months)?
- Questions with calculations
- As far as possible, avoid all calculation seeking questions. Respondents do hesitate to calculate and there is always the possibility of receiving wrong answers.
- Respondents who can not calculate also give wrong answers to hide their ignorance and who can, they also have a tendency of wrong calculation to exhibit their confidence in calculations.
Example: What percent of your income is spent on the treatment? Instead, use “What is your monthly income?” as a preceding question of “How much do you spend in your treatment?” and calculation should be performed in the data processing and analysis phase.
- Do not give strains to the respondents.
- Double negative (Double-barrelled)
- Double negatives must be avoided in the language of the question.
- Double negative gives positive meaning but sounds like negation to the statement. It also creates confusion for the interviewers and respondents.
Example: “Do not you want to move from this place not to expose yourself?” Instead, “Do you want to move from this place to hide?” would be better.
- Two in one Questions
- Merging of two questions into one should be completely avoided.
- Such merging often confuses the respondent and according to the cognitive capacity, some respondents serve answers to the latter and some to the former.
- No, all respondents provide answers to both parts.
Example: When did you visit your spouse and how many nights did you spend there? There are clearly 2 questions and they are to be segregated.
- Leading and embarrassing questions (Wording, Leading and threatening)
- Leading and embarrassing questing should be biased.
- People feel offensive to answer these questions.
- Such questions also lead towards biased answers, therefore these are to be avoided.
Example: Don’t you agree that persons with HIV positive have also rights to marry? Or suppose, you are suffering from HIV positive, should not you have the right to marry? Such types of questions insist the respondent provide answers that match the positive or negative tone of the question itself.
- Khatiwada, R. P., Pradhan, B. L. & Poudyal, N. (2015). Research Methodology. KEC Publication, Kathmandu Nepal.
- Kumar, R. (2011). Research methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners. Los Angeles: SAGE.
- Walliman, Nicholas. Research Methods: The Basics. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.