Recommendations for questionnaire creation

Since the questionnaire represents your contact with the respondents, it is very important how you phrase your questions. Please keep in mind the following recommendations.

1. Creating your own questions gives you more freedom, in terms of phrasing and design. However, this approach raises the issues of objectivity, reliability (the reproducibility of values of a variable when you measure the same subjects several times) and validity (are we even measuring what we intended to measure). In order to improve these three components, different measurement scales and questionnaires have been designed. Thus it is advisable that you check for questions that measure the information that you are after (e.g. in the library).

2. Do not force the respondents to answer questions (e.g. mandatory questions), but primarily check whether the respondents gave the information that you were looking for. For example, if you want to know their year of birth, restrict the answer field to only four digit numbers. You can warn the respondents that the information is incorrect and ask for a correction, but you should not restrict the respondents from continuing the survey, since this might lead the respondents giving false information or exiting the survey.

3.The content of the questions should be simple and easy to understand. Avoid jargon, slang and overly technical words and phrases. Also avoid questions that have more than one dimension.

4. The order of the questions is very important:

  • The order should be logical. For example, questions on events should match the order of events, questions about the evaluation of an experiences should follow a question that describe this experience, etc.
  • Questions related to the same topic should be grouped together. By constantly changing the topic we reduce the likelihood that the respondents’' answers will be well thought-out. If you organize your questions by topic, the respondents can focus on only one topic at a time.
  • Topics (and questions) should be ordered from the most to the least important for the respondents. Studies have shown that surveys dealing with topics that are important to respondents achieve a higher response rate.
  • Sensitive (difficult) questions should be located towards the end of the questionnaire, as you do not want the respondent to exit the survey at outset because of this issue.
  • Demographic questions are usually located at the end of the questionnaire.
  • Questions with similar components should be grouped together – e.g. questions with the same scale should be placed together. In this way we reduce the cognitive burden on the respondent.

5. First question should be suitable for anyone (unless the first question is designed to determine "suitability" of the respondent):

  • Keep it simple - the respondents should be able to read, understand and reply in a few seconds. This is not the place for long questions with many possible answers or for open-ended questions.
  • Make it interesting, because this increases the likelihood that the respondent will participate in the survey.

6. Measurement scales should be consistent throughout the survey. If you use a scale from 1 to 5, this should apply throughout the survey, and the highest and lowest values should be consistent ​​(e.g. 1 for the lowest and 5 for the highest).

7. Be careful when creating the first and last page of the questionnaire. The primary function of the first page should be to motivate the respondents, so do not place instructions on this page. The last page should be kept simple, and usually involves a thank you note.

8. Determine which question type is the best for each question.

9. If the survey has many questions, it should also be divided into multiple pages, since scrolling on the page is not recommended. We also recommend that you place more than one question per page, in order to shorten the completion time and minimize the risk of respondents exiting the survey.

10. Use branching and jumps if necessary. Do not include text such as “If you answered ‘Yes’ in Q1, answer Q2, otherwise proceed to Q3”.

11. Make sure you included all possible answers to closed-ended questions. If you are unsure, use the option "other".

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