Tips and Things to Avoid in Questionnaires

Last Updated
August 22, 2009

Things to Avoid in Questionnaires

The one thing that many people make the mistake of is the use of ‘leading’ questions. An example of this is asking someone why they buy a certain product for reasons other than its quality: firstly they may not even buy the product, and secondly they are pushed into praising the product. Another example would be to ask (using the hot dog example) ‘Do you prefer hot-dogs to hamburgers?’ Instead, ask ‘Do you prefer hot dogs or hamburgers?’ as this then gives people a less pressured response.

Do not ask questions that require two answers as people will get confused and may misunderstand the question. For example, you may ask ‘What is your opinion of this product and would you expect it to compete with other similar products’? In which case, either split the question up into two parts (part i and ii) or ask them separately.

Make sure that your questions read simply i.e. do not include technical terms that some people will not have heard of. If this is unavoidable then explain the meaning of these terms before you ask. If it is a postal or e-mail questionnaire, then make sure that any terminology is clearly defined in writing.

Avoid questions that people will not know or find it difficult to answer. This may be down to how you word the question but also by asking questions like ‘how many times did you buy product X in the last year’?

Helpful Tips

As we stated in the ‘ways of issuing questionnaires’ section, the response to personal questionnaires is usually linked to the attitude of the interviewers. In which case, you should approach people with a positive and enthusiastic attitude with a friendly appearance to encourage their willingness to participate. Try not to pester people otherwise it will reflect badly on your business image. It is therefore advised that you do not waste time with people that are not willing to co-operate.

When including multiple choice questions, you should always offer an ‘Other’ option if your range of answers do not cover every possibility. This would be for questions such as ‘which washing powder do you buy’? as you will not list every washing powder available. You could even add a line so that people can specify what this ‘other’ option is.

Always thank people for their time: even if you are sending the questionnaire by post/e-mail, you can still write it at the end. At the same time, you may even decide to give the interviewees/recipients a promotional leaflet or business card: they may be curious and interested about what the questionnaire is leading to.

If you have your own web site, you could offer free access to informati on or resources that are received by people on completion of your on-line questionnaire. By doing so, your target audience will have been found automatically: why else would they be at your web site? Alternatively if your budget can compensate, offer an incentive for completing your questionnaire such as a free prize draw for a weekend holiday, etc.

Your questionnaires should be sampled at different times and locations to randomize your data as much as possible. Further, referring back to the hot dog example, the person may issue questionnaires, say, when there is and when there isn’t a local football game on.

Finally, the length of your questionnaire will reflect how effective it will be. Limit your questionnaire to less than 10 questions but without overlooking essential questions.

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. Structuring Your Questionnaire - What Questions to Ask
  6. Tips and Things to Avoid
  7. Analyzing Questionnaire Results
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