Structuring Your Questionnaire – What Questions to Ask

Last Updated
August 22, 2009

Which Questions to Ask

The first thing you have to be aware of is what you are trying to find out from the questionnaire which will determine the approach to which questions you will ask. For example, a person wants to set up a fast-food stall initially to sell hot dogs and he therefore wants to find out if demand exists and also the attitude of people towards the proposed service. In other words: would it be welcome?

His opening question will be to ask the person if they use fast-food services in the area. This will give an easy start to the questionnaire and he will also find out if fast-food services are something that is commonly used in the area. He will then ask which fast-food services they use (if any) which will determine his closest potential rivals.

The next thing he asks is what type of fast food they prefer. You may be thinking isn’t that obvious if they have specified which fast-food services they use? In some cases, yes, but it may be that they prefer something that isn’t available in the area in which the perfect response he would be looking for is ‘hot dogs’.

This question is multiple choice as he does not want to encourage the person through interviewer bias to say ‘yes’ to the question: ‘would you prefer hot dogs to anything else’? The response he gets to this question may also give him an idea to what other products he could sell if hot dogs are not the favoured outcome.

For this particular issue, he finally asks the person to comment on the range and availability of fast-food services in the area so that he can get an indication of whether his stall would be a welcome addition.

He then moves on to customer trends by asking the question ‘what else do you buy when purchasing fast food’? He will then offer a multiple choice including cold/hot drinks and desserts. From this, he can determine what else he could offer at his stall. He then asks what time the person usually gets hungry dur ing the day in which they seek a fast-food service. T his will determine when he can expect his peak trading times to be.

He further questions how many times they use fast-food services a week so he can quantify the expected amount of regular customers. Finally, he asks how much they are prepared to pay at a fast-food service so he can match his prices to what customers are willing to pay.

His next questions are aimed at his business specifically by first asking the person for their comments on the introduction of a hot dog stall in the area and why they would or would not use it. Preceding this, he asks for the comments of whether other people would use the service as this may differ from his/her personal preference for fast-food.

Finally, he closes his questionnaire by asking for a few personal details such as the age group they fall in (nobody likes to give their exact age), how far they live from the area, and their purpose for being in the area. For other questionnaires this information may be irrelevant, but for this particular example this data can be used for analysis to identify patterns in the responses of people in different sectors. For example, it may be that people who fall in the 18-30 age group have a more positive attitude towards the service than those that fall in the other age groups: in which case locating the service near 18 – 30 venues would appear obvious.

Structuring the Questionnaire

The structure of the questionnaire is equally as important as the content in order to maintain the interest and co-operation of the interviewee. The first thing that your questionnaire should have is an introduction: for personal and telephone interviews you will be able to introduce the questionnaire verbally but for the other ways, you should have a written introduction.

This will briefly introduce the background of the questionnaire so that people know what they are going to be asked. Don’t give away information about what you hope to achieve otherwise people may be biased to your product/service and therefore the results will be inaccurate.

Start with easy and interesting questions first so that the interviewees develop an interest and ‘feel’ for the questionnaire. Leave the more complex questions to the end but at the same time be sure that your questions are in a logical order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

Article Index

  1. Market Research Questionnaires
  2. Questionnaires by Telephone or Interviews
  3. Questionnaires by Post and Email
  4. Questionnaires - Targeting and Choosing Good Questions
  5. What Questions to Ask
  6. Tips and Things to Avoid in Questionnaires
  7. Analyzing Questionnaire Results
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