Is Your Research Questionnaire Fit for Human Consumption?

By Andy Beaubien, BPR

An increasing amount of research studies are now being conducted on-line. Many respondents who are participating in on-line studies are actually answering the survey questions on their smart phone and not necessarily on a PC or even a tablet.

In the US 39% of respondents are now using their smart phone to respond to on-line surveys, in China 33% and Australia 39%. This means that we need to make sure that the visual design of the questionnaire can be easily read on a smart phone. If the questionnaire is too difficult to read on a smart phone screen, participation will be negatively affected.

Whether the study is on-line, telephone retrieval (CATI) or even in person, be sure to write questions that people can understand, either in verbal or written form. Long, complex sentences may be fine for a doctoral thesis but they do not work for research purposes. Here is an example:

A. Thinking about any advertisements (e.g., television commercials, blogs, magazines, online advertisements, etc.) you have seen in the past month, please select from the list below the brands that you recall seeing.

B. Which brands have you seen ads for recently?

Which one do you prefer?

This first option suggests that the respondent has never heard of ads before and requires a detailed explanation of what an ad is. The second option is quick and easy and assumes that the respondent has not been living in a cave since the advent of advertising.

Be honest about the length of time to which the respondent will have to commit when participating in your study. Respondents are far more likely to participate if they have a clear understanding of the time required to complete a survey. Like most people, I am regularly asked to answer customer satisfaction surveys. I am rarely told how long the survey will take. This can be frustrating and unfair to the respondent. In addition, if you do tell the respondent that the survey will take 20 minutes to complete, stick to that time limit.

At BPR we encourage our clients to participate in the questionnaire design process. By keeping to some basic rules, we can together design questionnaires that are efficient and effective.


*Based on a report from AMSRS Market and Social Research Society


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