By Nick Hill
Developing the questionnaire is undoubtedly the most important part of conducting a survey. The quality of the questions will determine the quality of the results and the effectiveness of your survey. Here are 12 tips for developing an effective questionnaire.
1. Write a good introduction - The beginning of your survey should have an introduction of the survey. It should state your objective in a way that grabs the attention of potential respondents and encourages them to take the survey. Also, since it is easy for online survey respondents to abandon your survey, you should include instructions on how to complete the survey and an estimate of how much time it will take.
2. Ask questions that provide the information you need - Always keep your objective and the information that you need to gather to achieve it in mind while asking the questions. Also, it is best to avoid the temptation to gather "extra" bits of information that are "nice to know" but irrelevant to your objective.
3. Ask important questions first, demographic questions last - Since it is very easy for online survey respondents to abandon your survey, always ask the important questions first and the demograhic questions last.
4. Organize the questions in logical groups - Always organize the questions in logical groups. It makes it easier for your respondents to understand and answer the questions, thus increasing the quality of the results.
5. Use plain, easy to understand language - The most effective surveys always use plain, easy to understand language. Using unclear or ambiguous language will give you misleading results. So test your survey thoroughly to ensure that it is indeed easy to understand.
6. Avoid technical terms, jargon, and acronyms - If you use technical terms, jargon, and acronyms, your respondents might not understand them, get frustrated, and abandon your survey. So strictly avoid them.
7. Use even number of responses - Whenever possible, use even number of responses for multiple choice questions. That way the respondents have to give a positive or a negative opinion, they can't give a "neutral" answer.
8. Randomize the responses - Whenever it makes sense, randomize the order in which responses are displayed. This removes "order bias" from the responses.
9. Avoid unnecessary graphics and embedded components - Although it might be tempting to use graphics and embedded components, their use increases the time it takes to download and display your survey. So use them only when it is absolutely necessary and certainly don't overdo it.
10. Be sensitive to the feelings of your respondents - Always be sensitive to the feelings of your respondents. If you offend them, they might abandon your survey. So test your survey to ensure that it is not offending to any group of people.
11. Thank the respondents - Your respondents spend the time to take your survey. So never forget to thank them for completing the survey.
12. Keep it short - As a general rule, keep your survey short, simple, and to the point.
© Web Based Survey Software (http://www.web-based-survey-software.org) 2004
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