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Non-Profit Research Tips (4 of 5): Developing the Questionnaire

When conducting a research study, developing a questionnaire that meets your organization’s information objectives and facilitates honest, accurate feedback from respondents is essential. Here is Step 4 in the research process, developing the questionnaire.

 In developing a questionnaire for your study, always keep the goals and analysis plan in mind.  By focusing on these information objectives, you can create questions and response scales that will provide you with information that will be usable and valuable for your organization.

 Questions.     For most surveys, you will want fewer than 30 questions, worded in user-friendly language that is neutral.  Keep your survey concise – the longer the survey, the less likely people are to complete it, no matter what contact method you use.  While it is tempting to get someone’s opinion on everything, stay focused on your specific information objectives – even if all of your participants responded to 100 questions, would your organization truly act on that volume of information?  Most would not.

 Questions should be worded in neutral, user-friendly language.  Use phrases that are common to your group of respondents.  With diverse populations, keep language simple to ensure that everyone can easily understand the question.  Keep questions neutral – do not use leading questions.  “How happy are you with….” Is NOT the same as “How do you feel about…”  Do not assume/lead someone’s response – you are looking for their honest, accurate feedback – not validating your theories.  In addition, provide neutral re-phrasing or examples as tools for your interviewers and participants.

 Response Scales.    Response scales must consider both the analysis plan – the mix of quantitative and qualitative data – as well as the respondent.  For most respondents, ten response are too many.  However, providing only two response options, may provide insufficient utility for data analysis.  Often three to seven response options will provide both information-rich data without confusing respondents. 

 As with the questions, make sure the response option language is comfortable for the respondent – that they will understand the differences between options and be able to select the one that best reflects their experience.

 Organization.          Once you have a set of questions and response scales, go through your survey to ensure that flows logically.  Create an introduction that will let your respondents know why their input is valuable.  Be sure to close your survey by thanking your respondents for their time.  Honest feedback is a gift and in today’s increasingly busy world, more and more valuable.

Once you and your team have developed your questionnaire, you are ready to move to Step 5 Data Collection & Analysis.

Posted in Client Satisfaction, Market Research, Quality Improvement.

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