Friday, 26 November 2010

Thanking the Respondent

A very important thing to remember when designing your questionnaire, is that you are asking for the respondent to fill it out for free (unless you pay/ give out a free gift). You cannot forget the "nuisance factor" on the respondent and the fact that they spent their own time helping you to gather information to help your business. It is therefore very important to make sure that the questionnaire is easy to fill out, will not take longer than stated at the start (do not say it will take 5 minutes if it will take 15) and that it includes a written thank you expressing your appreciation for them taking the time out of their day to help you out.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Tips for creating a good survey or questionnaire

Many surveys aren’t thoroughly thought out before they are constructed, this may lead to a poor response rate and it may not gather all of the information that it was required to. Below I have set out a bullet pointed list to show some key tips for creating a good survey or questionnaire.
• Include instructions on how to complete the survey- To ensure you collect the data you need correctly you need to make sure the recipient knows exactly how to fill out the questionnaire. What may seem obvious to you may not seem obvious to someone else.
• Keep the questions short and concise- The easier it is for the recipient to answer the questionnaire the more likely it is that the answers you receive will be honest and genuine.
• Don’t ask for personal information unless you need it- By asking individuals to provide sensitive data may irritate some respondents and prevent them from completing the questionnaires. If you need to ask personal information it is best to place them at the end of the questionnaire.
• Make sure the questions are unbiased- All questions in the questionnaire must be unbiased to prevent the recipient from giving a bias answer. If the questions are bias the results you receive will also be bias.
• Present the questions in a clean and organised layout- A simple layout will make it easier for people to respond to the questions and for you to collect the data you need.
• Clearly state your intentions with your research- Some people are hesitant to answer questions about themselves until they know exactly what they are answering questions for. To gain the best responses it is therefore important to clearly state your intentions on the questionnaire.
Hopefully the above points will help when looking at how to make a good questionnaire.

What are response rates within surveys and issues associated with them?

What is response rate and why is it used ?

Response rates are the number of people who have answered the survey from the given number of people asked to conduct the survey.

It is usually represented as a percentage by dividing the number of people who answered by the sample number (overall total asked to conduct survey) then multiplying by a hundred.

Response Rate = People who answered X 100

Sample size

There are two issues when it comes to response rate, one being the nonresponse issue and the other being the response issues.

Nonresponse Issues

Nonresponsive issues also known as nonresponsive bias is usually always a problem for all surveys carried out as most of the time there is a difference between the sample size and the sample that actually respond to the survey.

Nonresponse bias usually cannot be avoided and so inevitably negatively affects most survey research by creating errors in a statistical measurement. Researchers must therefore account for nonresponse either during the planning of their survey or during the analysis of their survey results. If you create a larger sample during the planning stage, confidence limits may be based on the actual number of responses themselves.

Response Issues

As well as nonresponsive bias issues researchers should also take into account responsive bias.

These can be down to

· When respondents give false information to save time.

· When there are too many options to pick from and they select the first thing that enters their mind.

·When respondents do not read the questions and are not bothered with the survey so they select the same answer for all questions e.g. neutral, no or disagree.

· Respondents miss out questions.

Response bias can seriously affect the results of the survey when they are statistically represented.

It is difficult to completely eliminate response bias but can be reduced through careful consideration of the types of questions and answers offered to respondents during the design stage of the survey.


Response Rate Issues. Retrieved 24th November 2010 from

Email or Printed Questionnaires

When your target population has access to email, it is very tempting to send them through email as it is a quicker option and it cost less. However, emails can be seen as junk especially if you do not know the sender. This shows that it depends on who your target market is and what makes it easier for the user to fill in. I have listed some advantages and disadvantages of using email or printed questionnaires.


  • Quick to send
  • Free
  • Easy to send to a large amount of people
  • Easy to Reply
  • Seen as Spam at times
  • Could be difficult to download
  • Formatting may be Difficult

Statistical Surveys

Statistical surveys are used to collect quantitative information on population. These surveys are particularly used for political, governmental, health and social research. It can also be used as a marketing tool for business to identify what products people prefer and their change in tastes. From the surveys the main focus it to receive opinion depending on its purpose. Questions that are administrated are normally referred to a self-administrative or a questionnaire survey.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Types of Survey/Questionnaire Questions

Types of questions

1. Contingency questions - A question that is answered only if the respondent gives a particular response to a previous question. This avoids asking questions of people that do not apply to them (for example, asking men if they have ever been pregnant).

2. Matrix questions - Identical response categories are assigned to multiple questions. The questions are placed one under the other, forming a matrix with response categories along the top and a list of questions down the side. This is an efficient use of page space and respondents’ time.

3. Closed ended questions - Respondents’ answers are limited to a fixed set of responses. Most scales are closed ended. Other types of closed ended questions include:
 Yes/no questions - The respondent answers with a “yes” or a “no”.
 Multiple choice - The respondent has several option from which to choose.
 Scaled questions - Responses are graded on a continuum (example : rate the appearance of the product on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most preferred appearance). Examples of types of scales include the Likert scale, semantic differential scale, and rank-order scale (See scale for a complete list of scaling techniques.).

4. Open ended questions - No options or predefined categories are suggested. The respondent supplies their own answer without being constrained by a fixed set of possible responses. Examples of types of open ended questions include:
 Completely unstructured - For example, “What is your opinion of questionnaires?”
 Word association - Words are presented and the respondent mentions the first word that comes to mind.
 Sentence completion - Respondents complete an incomplete sentence. For example, “The most important consideration in my decision to buy a new house is . . .”
 Story completion - Respondents complete an incomplete story.
 Picture completion - Respondents fill in an empty conversation balloon.
 Thematic apperception test - Respondents explain a picture or make up a story about what they think is happening in the picture

Wikipedia, 2010. Questionnaire Construction. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 November 2010].

The Advantages & Disadvantages of Questionnaires & Surveys

Surveys are normally used for statistical purposes by gathering information. Most surveys use questionnaires for a base of their research. Surveys can help decide what needs changing, where money should be spent, what products to purchase, what problems there might be, or lots of other questions you may have at any time.

Surveys can be useful in some cases when the questions asked are specific and if the questions asked affect them. Sometimes surveys and questionnaires are not taken seriously leading the participant to write anything to make it less time consuming. If the survey/questionnaire is very long most people decide to ignore it which would make it useless.

Advantages of a Survey

  • Surveys can be inexpensive especially if they are self administrated.
  • They can be used sent to different locations by using mail, email or telephone.
  • You can ask many questions over a given topic
  • It is an effective way to get opinions of a large number of people.

Disadvantages of a Survey

  • Structured surveys normally use closed ended questions which makes opinions limited.
  • Can be time consuming and hard to structure at times.
  • If it is an anonymous survey people may not give a valid answer.
  • The researcher must ensure that a large number of the selected sample will reply.

Advantages of a Questionnaire

  • Very cost effective compared to face to face interviews
  • Very familiar with people almost everyone has completed one so no guidance needed.
  • They can be completed easily and quickly
  • They should be simple and quick for the respondent to complete


  • Some people may not be willing to answer the questions. They might not wish to reveal the information or they might think that they will not benefit from responding perhaps even be penalised by giving their real opinion.
  • Questionnaires also invite people to lie and answer the questions very vaguely which they would not do in an interview.
  • You forget to ask a question, you cannot usually go back to respondents, especially if they are anonymous


Paul Barribeau, Bonnie Butler, Jeff Corney, Megan Doney, Jennifer Gault, Jane Gordon, Randy Fetzer, Allyson Klein, Cathy Ackerson Rogers, Irene F. Stein, Carroll Steiner, Heather Urschel, Theresa Waggoner, and Mike Palmquist. (2005). Survey Research.Writing@CSU. Colorado State University Department of English. Retrieved [November, 20th 2010] from

Milne, John (1999). Questionnaires: Advantages and Disadvantages, Centre for CBL in Land Use and Environmental Sciences, Aberdeen University, Retrieved [November, 20th 2010] from

Data restriction in Surveys/Questionnaires

A popular method of colleting Quantitative data is surveys/questionnaires. Quantitative data is collected data in a form which focuses on numbers and frequencies rather than meaning and experience. Surveys and questionnaires are effective, reliable and appropriate ways of collecting quantitative data, especially numerical form data. As most surveys consist of ‘closed questions’, results lack true opinions and in depth description. So surveys/questionnaires are poor methods in collecting Qualitative data (collecting data which is associated with describing meaning, rather than collecting statistical data). Although on the upside Questionnaires can include some open questions, so in situations where only a small research sample in necessary, questionnaires can be good for collecting both Quantitative and Qualitative Data.

Joseph Samura

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Survey Method

A list of some of the strengths/disadvantages of using surveys.


  • Surveys are relatively inexpensive (especially self-administered surveys).
  • Surveys are useful in describing the characteristics of a large population. No other method of observation can provide this general capability.
  • They can be administered from remote locations using mail, email or telephone.
  • Consequently, very large samples are feasible, making the results statistically significant even when analyzing multiple variables.
  • Many questions can be asked about a given topic giving considerable flexibility to the analysis.
  • There is flexibilty at the creation phase in deciding how the questions will be administered: as face-to-face interviews, by telephone, as group administered written or oral survey, or by electonic means.
  • Standardized questions make measurement more precise by enforcing uniform definitions upon the participants.
  • Standardization ensures that similar data can be collected from groups then interpreted comparatively (between-group study).
  • Usually, high reliability is easy to obtain--by presenting all subjects with a standardized stimulus, observer subjectivity is greatly eliminated.


  • A methodology relying on standardization forces the researcher to develop questions general enough to be minimally appropriate for all respondents, possibly missing what is most appropriate to many respondents.
  • Surveys are inflexible in that they require the initial study design (the tool and administration of the tool) to remain unchanged throughout the data collection.
  • The researcher must ensure that a large number of the selected sample will reply.
  • It may be hard for participants to recall information or to tell the truth about a controversial question.
  • As opposed to direct observation, survey research (excluding some interview approaches) can seldom deal with "context."

Colorado State University, 2010. Advantages and Disadvantages of the Survey Method. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 November 2010].

Monday, 22 November 2010

What different types of surveys are there?

Surveys are a popular method for companies or individuals to collect useful data from a customer/consumer which they can then use to some benefit. E.g A company can use a survey to determine which of its services are the best and which need improving.

There are many types of surveys some of which are listed below:

Face to Face Interviews: Are the most costly and time consuming of surveys but can generate good results as the interviewer can "dig deeper" when asking the client questions.

Phone Interviews: Are very cheap and quick, they can gain good results but more often than not the recipient won’t be eager to take the survey and therefore may give dishonest answers to get the interviewer off the phone.

Written Questionnaires: Are cheap and many questionnaires can be sent out at once, however although the fact that written questionnaires allow the recipient to remain anonymous, the response rate is likely to be low as alot of people just discard questionnaires as junk.

If anyonelse has taken part in any form of a survey i would be interested to hear your views.


Sunday, 21 November 2010

What makes an effective Survey/ Questionnaire?

In order to design and implement an effective Survey or Questionnaire it is important to consider many influencing factors which could affect the responses that will be received. The questions have to be well balanced and not biased in any way that could influence the user into giving either inaccurate or unnecessary information which can waste time, for both the respondent and the conductor of the research.

- Questions need to be fair and unbiased. A lot of this can come from the phrasing used to write a question, for example; "What did you like about the last airline flight you took?" is a biased question because it forces to respondent to consider what they liked about the flight rather than if they actually liked the flight or not. The question is effectively "pushing" for a positive response. 

Rewriting the question so that it reads; "What, if anything, did you like or dislike about the last airline flight you took?" serves to change the respondents perspective so they don't feel like they are being put on the spot to find something positive, rather they are thinking about whether or not the experience was an enjoyable one and what in particular made it that way.

- Make sure that the questions you asked provide the exact information that the questionnaire/ survey is intended to find out. It is necessary to avoid the temptation to gather extra bits of information which are nice to know, but do not have anything to do with the initial objectives for which the questionnaire/ survey was created. A way to ensure this would be to conduct a test (pilot) for your questionnaire which will help you to understand the type of answers you can expect from the questions you chose to ask, and can help you to redesign the questions to try and achieve more thorough and relevant results from each respondent.

- "It has been estimated that as many as 50% of respondents who start a self-administered questionnaire will not complete it because they become irritated and annoyed at the way it is constructed. When writing a self-administered questionnaire, then, every care must be taken to ensure that it is easy to complete in that it almost answers itself" (Kaden, Bob. 2007).

With this is mind, we should be aware of a couple of techniques that can be used to increase the completion percentage of the questionnaire you have designed;

Keep the language used in questionnaires simple. Unnecessary and potentially confusing language such as technical terms, jargon and acronyms can only serve to confuse the average respondent, which is something that you should definitely look to avoid, because this can lead to misleading results if the respondent gets confused as to what they are being asked, or even abandonment of the questionnaire if they continue to be frustrated by their lack of understanding of what they are being asked. 

Keep the number of questions that you decide to ask quite low, as the more questions you decide to ask, the more likely it is that the user will become frustrated by the seemingly "never ending" number of questions being asked, which will lead to people failing to complete all of the questions, out of boredom and/ or lack of time.

It is also important that your questionnaire has a good flow between questions (question 1 relates to question 2 and so on...) and is set out in a way that is not cluttered and is easy to read.

- If your survey/ questionnaire is online based, it is also worth thinking about putting the most important questions (important in terms of what exactly it is that you need to find out, and what your objective for the survey is) first. This is due to the fact that it is very easy for a respondent to get bored mid-way through a questionnaire and click the close button on their browser, so putting the most important questions
 according to your objectives first, will ensure that you gain some results that you can use regardless of if a user quits half-way through the questions.

Following these basic rules of questionnaire writing are a good start, however, there are of course many more rules, tips and techniques that can be used to improve your questionnaire in terms of efficiency, response rate and the quality of the results that you are likely to receive. Hopefully we can touch upon a few more of these as this blog goes on over time.

References -

Frary, Robert B. (1996). Hints for designing effective questionnaires. Practical Assessmant, Research and Evaluation, 5(3). Retrieved November 21st, 2010 from

Hill, Nick. (2004). Tips for Developing an Effective Questionnaire. Retrieved November 21st, 2010 from

Kaden, Bob. (2007). Guidelines for Writing an Effective Questionnaire. Retrieved November 21st, 2010 from

Saturday, 20 November 2010

First Post

This blog is going to be based on the topic of "Surveys and Questionnaires" and will be contributed to and commented on by the members of the "Orange" group from our Research Methods class.