“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”– Albert Einstein-
Framing a good questionnaire is about defining the questions correctly, and not simply converting the answers that we seek.
Rule 1 : Keep it simple and logical
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may speak “– Hans Hofman
Stay focussed on asking questions that are short and simple. Avoid the temptation to ask for more. Don’t make respondents feel like it’s an exam where they need to give correct answers
Questions need to have a logical flow, which ensures lower respondent fatigue. The answer to the first question primes and influences the answer to the next, so start with the most generic ones and move to specifics. For eg: category before the brand.
Rule 2 : Be neutral , its uncomfortable when you feel judged
“Be curious, not judgemental”– Walt Whitman
Imagine this question – “What is your health and fitness regime on a daily basis?”
It assumes first, that the respondent does something for health and fitness, second that it is regimented, and third that it is done daily – look at the amount of pressure we have put on the respondent to be “correct”. His/her answer is unlikely to be “nothing” as he/she doesn’t want to appear to fall short of a strangers’ expectations of him/her.
Lets make this neutral – “do you feel the need to do anything specific to improve fitness ” . This allows the respondent to state the option in his/her own view without fear of being judged
Rule 3 : Don’t challenge long term memory, no one likes to fail
“Forgetfulness is a form of freedom”Kahlil Ghibran
You can expect to get factually correct information with a large frame of reference e.g. : “Can you tell us the number of times in the last 5 years you have called XXX for a query” – very tough to recall correctly as the time frame is too long, it’s always better to ask for a shorter duration and extrapolate the number. Be intuitive. Ask yourself first.
Rule 4 : Keep it factual and impossible to interpret in a different way
“The text has disappeared under the interpretation”Friedrich Nietzsche
“When was the last time you visited a high end supplier for your paints”
Each individual respondent can have his/her own interpretation of a high end supplier As researchers we need to seek clarity on what defines “high end” – is it the size, shopping experience, number of items stocked, which brands are stocked, or which neighbourhood they are in.” Good questionnaires define every element that is subject to individual interpretation clearly. So a better question could read as
“When was the last time you visited a high end supplier – when I say high end I mean one or more of the following – a supplier with his own experience/design centre, design consultants, floor area of more than 20,000 sq ft in his showroom which is in a downtown neighbourhood, or one that serves customers only by appointment?”
Rule 5 :Move from least intrusive to more intrusive – respect privacy
Intrusive questions can put off the most cooperative of respondents – if they are unavoidable to the research push them as close to the end of the questionnaire as possible – at least we lower the risks of having an irate respondent refuse or get upset early into the interview . Financial information is extremely intrusive – please handle asking with care. A simple way to assess – how comfortable are you sharing this information with a stranger? If you are even slightly uncomfortable, chances are that the respondent will be too.
“I didn’t have the time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one instead”Mark Twain
The shorter the questionnaire, the better the quality of the information – always. Remember to put in the hard yards to make it short.