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Designing and Analysing questionnaires

The questionnaire is one of the most widely used techniques for data collection.  It works by asking a variety of people to respond to the same set of questions. Questionnaires can be used to provide data about attitudes, beliefs, behaviour and attributes.  There are four main types of questionnaire: postal, delivery and collection, telephone and structured interview.

Before you start...

Before you start to design your questions you need to consider:
  • The information or data required for the assignment; 
  • The time available to complete the survey, including the delivery and collection of forms and for interviewing if structured interviews form part of the survey;
  • The financial implications of postal or telephone questionnaires and photocopying the forms;
  • The ease of inputting the data which you have collected into a spreadsheet or database;
  • The validity and reliability of the data;
  • The wording of the questions

Designing the questions

Questions may be open (free response) or closed (structured) and most questionnaires use a combination of the two.
  • Open questions allow the respondent to give an opinion:

‘How would you describe your accommodation?’

  • Closed questions offer simple yes/no answers, a choice of answers or a range of options:
‘How would you describe your accommodation?’
Excellent         Very good         Good           Fair             Poor
Questions should:
  • Be clear and avoid ambiguity;
  • Be unbiased;
  • Draw out the information required;
  • Avoid jargon or emotionally sensitive terms;
  • Follow a logical sequence;
  • Avoid leading questions.

Layout and Coding

Layout of the Questionnaire
It should have a clear and simple layout and should be well spaced. 
If you use  boxes they should be placed directly below each other so that reading and answering can be completed quickly. 
The heading should state the origin and purpose of the work and more extensive questionnaires should have a letter attached in which the purpose of the research is outlined.
Coding the questions
If you intend to analyse the data using a spreadsheet or database then you will need to use codes. Numbers may be used as codes for quantity questions but other questions may require a coding scheme. It may be useful to consider relevant existing schemes to allow you to make comparisons with data in other surveys.
             ‘How would you describe your accommodation?’
1            Excellent
2            Very good
3            Good
4             Fair
5             Poor

Sampling, testing & processing the data

Constraints of time, money and access make it impractical to collect and analyse data from every possible group and therefore you will need to select a sample. 

Pilot testing
Before using your questionnaire to collect data you should arrange a pilot test to ensure that respondents have no difficulty in answering the questions and that there are no problems in recording the data.  It will also enable you to assess the validity and reliability of the data collected.

Processing the data
Spreadsheets and/or databases will let you manipulate your data easily.  

Analysing the data

Analysing the information
Once your data has been entered into a computer you will need to explore and present it using tables and diagrams. You will need to bear in mind your research question when making your choice.
Remember that:
  • Tables show specific values;
  • Bar charts, multiple bar charts and histograms show limits (highest and lowest values);
  • Line graphs show trends;
  • Pie charts and Percentage component barcharts show proportions;
  • Scatter graphs show relationships between variables.