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Questionnaire | Meaning, Types Importance, Limitations, Preparation & Guidelines


What is Questionnaire ?

Questionnaire is a method of primary data collection that comprises of different sets of questions to get information from the respondents for the problem identified by the researcher. It is an orderly arrangement of questions that helps in generating the required primary data which can then be analysed and interpreted to solve a research problem. Using questionnaires, the researchers can ask direct questions to a number of people. Questionnaire helps the researchers in decision making on various issues. The response obtained from the questionnaire can be analysed quantitatively. The respondents of a questionnaire need no assistance of the researcher in fill the form, unlike in schedule where the researchers fill the form. A questionnaire can be administered orally, telephonically, via the web, etc. 

The success of a questionnaire depends on the skills of researcher in framing it appropriately. It requires in-depth knowledge, experience, and a lot of patience on the part of researcher to administer a questionnaire properly. The designing of a questionnaire is one of the most important aspects for proper data collection. Hence, researchers should frame the questionnaire in such a way that they need not to recollect the data, as there would be a single chance to interact with a respondent.

Types of Questions

Type of questions to be used in a questionnaire depends upon the type of information required. A questionnaire can consist of many types of questions. Major types of questions are as follows :

1) Open-Ended Questions : 
Open-ended questions contain no pre-set options or scales. These questions are asked when the researcher does not the answers of a respondent. Here, want to limit the answers of a the researcher wants the respondents to give insightful and real answers as well as well as suggestions The type of being i investigated. The for the the problem be qualitative in nature as coding analysis will be the responses of the respondent will be a difficult task for the researcher. Every sound questionnaire contains open ended questions.

2) Closed-Ended Questions : 
When the questions are to be answered within a boundary of limited options, indicators, or scales, they are called as "close-ended questions". These are the opposite of open-ended questions. The number of these choices or m or measures may be even or odd. Since the answers from the respondents fall into definite categories, it becomes easy for the researchers to undertake quantitative analysis on these types of questions. These types of questions can be asked to variety of people at different times and sufficient amount of responses can be gained.

Types of Closed-Ended Questions

Close ended questions are of following types : 

i) Leading Questions : 
When the close ended questions are asked with slightly similar options or measures like "good", "great", "best", 'excellent, etc., they are called leading questions. These a manner so questions are framed in such to elicit a predictable response from the respondent. Such questions a used to identify the preferences of customers. Typically in questionnaire design such questions should be avoided as they affect the unbiased nature of the questionnaire.
For example, how was the service of this restaurant?
a) Excellent 
b) Good
c) Average 
d) Below Average

ii) Likert Questions : 
These questions are based on the Likert scale. Likert questions carry five or seven levels of expression, which act as scales, describing the level of agreement or disagreement over a particular issue or statement. Likert questions provide the responses that can be quantitatively analysed and are often used in psychometric profiling.

iii) Dichotomous Questions : 
Questions asking respondents to answer by selecting one of the two options, such as 'A' or 'B', 'agree' or 'disagree', 'true' or 'false', 'yes' or 'no', etc., are called "dichotomous questions". A limiting factor in the efficiency of dichotomous questions is that, it cannot record the opinions that vary between the two ultimate options. An example of dichotomous question can be "Do you smoke?", and the respondents need to choose between "Yes" and "No". These questions are useful for those questions that have definite answers such as mentioning the "gender" as "male" or "female".

iv) Bipolar Questions : 
Questions having scale with two extreme responses are called bipolar questions. The respondent is required to select his/her response between the two opposite choices of the scale. 
For example, how do you rate the food of Cafe Coffee Day?"
a) Excellent 
c) Avenge
b) Good 
d) Poor
Here the adjectives 'excellent' and 'poor' are actually opposites of each other and hence are bipolar in nature.

v) Rating Scale Questions : 
When the respondent is required to rate a particular product, issue, organisation, or feature, etc., using scales ranging from poor to good, it is called "rating scale questions". These are based Ion rating scales which can be both odd numbered, or even numbered though even numbered rating scales are used more. 
For example, rating a movie in terms from 1 to 5 stars with I being the lowest and 5 the highest.

Types of Questionnaire

A questionnaire can be either structured or unstructured, and both of these can be either. disguised or non-disguised in nature. A questionnaire is structured when it follows a particular format of asking questions, whereas in an unstructured questionnaire, the researcher does not have to follow any pattern in administering the questionnaire. In disguised questionnaire, the purpose of the research is kept hidden from the respondent, while in non-disguised questionnaire, the objective of the research is known to respondent in advance. Hence, in this way, questionnaire can be of following four types :

1) Structured, Non-Disguised Questionnaire : 
This type of questionnaire contains pre-arranged sets of questions which are asked strictly in a fixed format. The objective or the purpose of this questionnaire is already explained to the respondents because by doing so that they can realize the importance and provide desired response. The respondents are required to answer the questions in the sequence in which questions are to be asked, the answers of which are provided in specified alternatives. This type of questionnaire is very popular among market researchers.
For example, if the sales manager of a four wheeler automobile company wants to know the buying preferences of consumers, a formal set of structured questions is necessary to design. It will help in finding required information from masses.

There are three basic methods to administer structured, non-disguised questionnaires, which are, personal interview, mailing, and telephone. Limitations of this kind of questionnaires include inability of respondents in providing the desired information, unwillingness of respondents, and the ineffectiveness of questions in deriving correct responses.

2) Non-Structured, Non-Disguised Questionnaire : 
A non-structured, non-disguised questionnaire contains open-ended questions, which are not like structured, non-disguised questionnaires. Here, the objective of the study is made clear at the beginning itself so that the respondent is aware of the purpose of his answers to be used in research. Open-ended questions facilitate the respondents to talk about his experiences, opinions and viewpoints. Since, these are unstructured in nature, deciding the sequence of asking questions entirely depends upon the researcher. 
The benefit of this kind of questionnaire is that large amount of information may be collected as the researcher is free to change the sequence of questions as needed. Only desired information is gathered through this questionnaire. This questionnaire also suffers from several limitations. It consumes more time to administer and sometimes there may be non-cooperation from the respondents, and thus quantification of open-ended responses becomes difficult.

3) Non-Structured, Disguised Questionnaire : 
As the name reflects, non-structured, disguised questionnaire is one in which, questions are not pre-arranged and the purpose of interview is not revealed to the respondent to obtain their original and unbiased reactions. The idea here is that respondents would show their attitudes without hesitation which would not be reflected when the purpose is known. Here, the interviews take the form of word association tests, storytelling etc.

4) Structured, Disguised Questionnaire : 
In this Type of questionnaire, the researcher does not reveal the purpose of the study but still retains a structured manner of research. Here the researcher tries to expose the latent perceptions of respondents through use of psychometric scales. This questionnaire is used in case of inability of non-disguised questionnaire. Through this method, the information known by the respondent is explored, rather than their feelings about an object or an issue.

Preparation of Questionnaire / Questionnaire Construction

A questionnaire is a systematic way of getting primary data. In other words there is a process of designing a questionnaire, failing which, the objective of research will not be met. The 10 steps involved in designing the questionnaire are as follows :

steps of questionnaire design

1) Determine the Need of Information : 
Before designing the questionnaire, the researcher needs to be clear on what information is needed to answer the research objectives. In this step, the researcher prepares a statement highlighting the information required to be collected so that it can serve the purpose of research. Once, the researcher knows the type of information needed, he/she can easily select the type of questionnaire to be prepared for research. For example, if the researcher's objective is to understand the brand image of a particular mobile phone then he needs to gather information on whether the brand is fulfilling all aspects that a consumer seeks in a mobile phone, i.e., price, features, distribution, service, etc.

2) Decide the Type of Questionnaire to be Used : 
Once the information need is addressed, the researcher next needs to find out the type of questionnaire to be used. There are basically four types of questionnaires available for research, which are structured-non-disguised questionnaire, non-structured-non-disguised questionnaire, non structured-disguised questionnaire, and structured disguised questionnaire. Each one of these has different format and representation, and is used in different situations. Researcher can select the type of questionnaire suitable for current research problem. This phase also emphasizes on getting to know the means for administering the questionnaire, much as telephone, mail, face-to face interview, etc. The selection of 'type of method' depends on the type of information required as well as the type of respondents to be approached. If the questionnaire is disguised and unstructured, the researcher has to select face-to face conversation. On the other hand, if the research objective allows a mass questionnaire and doesn't involve customization then the researcher can resort to telephonic or mail methods.

3) Decide the Type of Questions to be Used : 
After selecting the types of questionnaire to be used for collecting data, the next step is to determine the content of each question. It is very critical for the researcher as it encourage the respondent to give their genuine responses. The type of questions to be used generally depends on the type of questionnaire to be used as well as the purpose of research. For example, if the research purpose is to know the opinion of people regarding gender biasness, and the questionnaire is unstructured and disguised.

4) Decide the Wording of Questions : 
As the type of questions to be used in questionnaire is determined, researcher now concentrates on the wording and phrasing of the questions. The questions should be very simple and unambiguous. No confusing or sentimental words should be used. Easier the words are used, more it becomes effective. Any inappropriate word or phrase may hinder the relevant answers of the respondents. The wording of a questionnaire should be framed keeping in mind important factors like, language, education, research purpose, etc. For example, if the target segment comprises uneducatedЛlow educated respondents, then a questionnaire which is full of research jargon's will fail.

5) Decide the Sequence of Questions : 
After finalizing the wording or phrasing of the questions, next step is arranging the questions in most appropriate and effective way. A questionnaire has many parts basic data, classification data and identification data. There should be flow in which the questions should be asked. The sequence of questions is very important for a questionnaire to be effective. Hence, significant efforts should be put by the researchers in arranging the questions in an order that can prove to be helpful in getting the responses.

6) Decide the length of Questionnaire :
The next step in designing the questionnaire is to determine the length of questionnaire. It is one of most critical aspects of an effective questionnaire design. If the questionnaire is very long, then the respondent will lose enthusiasm in answering the questions. Similarly, if the questionnaire is too then the required data for the research will not be gathered from the questionnaire, and the researcher will not be able to conclude the research properly. It is very important that the respondent feels engaged while giving his answers. The ideal time for a questionnaire ranges between 30 to 40 minutes which can be extended up to 60 minutes for face-to-face interviews. One important factor to keep in mind is the respondent. How long can they be available for filling up the questionnaire? Will they be interested in the questionnaire?, etc., are some of the important questions that a researcher should answer himself before framing the questionnaire

7) Decide the Layout of the Questionnaire : 
After finalizing the length, the layout and reproduction of questionnaire is determined keeping in mind its effectiveness. The look, feel, and the layout of the questionnaire also matters. Respondents also hesitate to answer when they find the questionnaire cluttered and cumbersome. Hence, it is essential for the researcher to keep in mind that the questionnaire should be well printed, should be easy to understand by the respondents, and should be of adequate length. All these factors are necessary not just for helping the researcher and respondents in filling the questionnaire but also in analyzing the answers given by the respondents.

8) Include Check Questions : 
Sometimes respondents answer differently for the same issue, which in tum can be difficult to analyse and can produce errors in results. This problem can be eradicated by including some check questions in the questionnaire. These questions help in verifying the reliability of answers and in comparing the responses from other sources.

9) Pilot-Testing or Pre-Testing of Questionnaire : 
It is impossible to design a perfect questionnaire in one trial that is why there is a step called "pilol testing" or "pre-testing", which can show the shortcomings of the questionnaire. In this, the questionnaire is tested on a smaller sample size in simulated conditions identical to actual. Administering questionnaire is a costly affair as it needs significant time and money. Therefore, with the help of pilot-testing, the flaws in a questionnaire can be addressed and rectified before the actual survey is undertaken. The pre-tests are continued in loops till there is no error left.

10) Final Draft : 
Once the pilot tests are completed and all the corrections required in the questionnaire have been incorporated, the final draft of the questionnaire is ready to be implemented.

Guidelines for Preparation of Questionnaire

Guidelines for preparation of questionnaires are as follows :

1) Arrangement of Questions should be Logical : 
The flow of questions in a questionnaire should be logical and follow a smooth pattern. Ideally, it should be arranged like a flowchart to avoid haphazard questions. Every question in the questionnaire should have Mismanaged sequence of questions can lead to confusion among the respondents.

2) Numbering of Questions : 
For making the questionnaire easy to operate, the questions should be numbered. The serially numbered questions make it effective and adjustable. The researcher can adjust the sequences of the questions as per the situation.

3) Questions should Require Recent and Remembered Date : 
It is not advisable to include questions may force too old incidents or questions which demand complicated data, as it may force the respondent to either guess the answer or quit the survey, Include only those questions which require recent and easily remembered data. Questions that unnecessarily make the respondents to think too much about the past should be avoided as these may cause inaccurate outcomes.

4) Avoid Vague Questions : 
The researcher should refrain from asking vague questions. The wording of the questions should not be ambiguous. Ambiguous words or sentences may lead to misinterpretation by the respondents and the response may be altered. The questions should be specific enough so that respondents enough so understand it easily. 
For example, "how do you rate your car?" is a vague question because a car can be rated on many features like looks, performance, durability, fuel efficiency, etc. A performance, question like this can make the respondent feel confused as he or she does not know on what attribute the rating is to be given.

5) Avoid Leading Questions : 
A researcher should avoid including the leading questions as these questions bind the respondents within a specific options. They unable to express their real feelings or thoughts freely.

6) Avoid Personal Questions : 
For an effective survey and valid responses, asking personal questions should be avoided. There are some demographic variables which respondents often do not answer truthfully.

7) Good Transition between Questions : 
Good transition between questions is very vital for the flow of questionnaire. The successive questions should have a recognizable link, so that the respondents can understand the questions and hence, answer correctly.

8) Avoid Skip-and-Jump Questions : 
These are the questions where the respondent is asked to select between two choices, and subsequent questions are related with both the choices. The respondent has to attempt only the applicable questions. These questions make the respondent skip and jump sections too often and distract them. These questions are very confusing for an average respondent and also take much time, therefore these questions should be avoided.

9) Quality of the Questionnaire : 
The questionnaire should have a proper layout and look. It should be printed on proper paper with appropriate color. The questions should be correctly typed in proper font type and size. It attracts the respondents and helps in finding genuine responses. Researchers should try to maintain the confidentiality of respondents identities. This will help in gaining their trust as well as reduce biasness of results.

10) Questionnaire should be Easy to Handle : 
For effective collection of relevant responses of individuals, it is very necessary to keep in mind that the questionnaire should be easy to handle by the respondents as well as the researcher. The more the questionnaire is prepared with caution, the more it easy to handle. For this, only limited questions should be provided in the questionnaire to derive the information needed. Questionnaire overloaded with queries make it confusing and hence creates difficulties in its difficulties.

Sequencing of Questions in Questionnaire

The sequencing of questions in questionnaire is an important aspect of questionnaire structure. The structure of a questionnaire normally follows a "funnel approach". Researchers initially start with general questions and move to specific areas of interest. This allows the respondents get accustomed to the pace of questions. The sequence of questions depends on whether the questionnaire is self-handled or handled by the researcher. Generally, before starting the questionnaire, the interviewer introduces the research purpose to the respondent briefly. The sequencing of questions should be in following order :

1) Lead-in Questions : 
First of all, the lead-in questions are asked in a questionnaire. These questions are designed to get the respondents attention in the first stage itself so that he is engaged for the entire duration of the research. Many times, a researcher asks a question which tests the willingness of the respondent to participate in the study. These are simple questions, which bind the respondent to the questionnaire. The issues used in such questions should be and popular.

2) Qualifying Questions : 
After lead-in questions, which encourage the respondents, some relevant questions are asked which can lead to the main purpose of the study. Qualifying questions gradually bring the respondent to the objective of the study. Depending upon the answers, the respondents qualify for further objective questions. 

3) Warm-up Questions : 
Such questions compel the respondent to think and remind past experiences related to the research problem. These are asked only after the lead-in and qualifying questions, as till then the respondent is comfortable with the objective of the research. Clearly, the interview cannot start with this type of questions, as many respondents may consider it personal.

4) Specific Questions :
Specific questions are directly based on the research objectives. Here, direct questions are asked about the research problem to those participants who respond favorably. These respondents may be the end users of the product or services. These help in deriving most important information questions related to the research issue.

5) Demographic Questions : 
The demographic variables, such as, age, income, gender, etc., are useful in classifying the customers and also in analyzing how respondents belonging to different demographic classes differ in terms of product usage or opinions. Demographic questions, are developed in order to collect the information related to these demographic variables. Typically demographic variables are kept towards the end of the study so that the respondent is not diverted from the main research questions. 

Importance of Questionnaire

Questionnaires are advantageous due to following reasons :

1) Easy to Design and Interpret : 
The questionnaire is a tool which is used for quick data collection and analysis. It is easy to design and interpret. Respondents can easily understand the questions and give their genuine responses. Once the objective of research is clear. it takes less time to design a particular questionnaire. For researchers, coding and analyzing the responses become easy, as every participant is asked the same set of questions, which makes it a consistent technique.

2) Accessible to a Large Population : 
The researcher is able to reach a large number of people easily through a questionnaire. Using mail questionnaire, one can have the responses of geographically dispersed individuals in a cost effective way. For example, internet is a very useful medium for companies to get online feedback of users about their products and services.

3) Free from Bias : 
Since the questionnaire is mostly self-administered it frees the study from any biasness that the researcher could have. Unlike the face to face interviews, here the researcher does not usually interrupt during filling of questionnaire by the respondents. Hence, researcher cannot alter the responses, which in tum reduces personal biases. This results in genuine responses and valid outcomes.

4) Sufficient Time for Respondents to Answer : 
Questionnaire provides sufficient time to think and reply. It is given to the respondent to fill it at his or her convenient time, with full attention. Respondents can also change their answers on recalling facts.

5) Maintains Secrecy : 
Many times the subject matter of the research is such that it is of n very sensitive or personal nature. In these cases a self administered questionnaire is very useful as it allows the respondent to give his views and still maintain his secrecy. Since, respondents are not afraid of being identified or highlighted, so they honestly answer the questions.

6) Ease in Data Compilation and Analysis : 
The questionnaire provides very convenient and easy to compile information to the researchers. The data with the help of questionnaires are Usually structured and in simple format. Hence, the data can easily be analysed, compared, and compiled in charts, tables or graphs.

Limitations of Questionnaire

Besides significance, questionnaires have following limitations :

1) Complicated Questions : 
Generally, respondents easily understand the questions and give their responses very comfortably, but sometimes questions become complex in order to gain the specific information from the individuals. Complicated questions are very difficult to be self-administered as the respondent is often confused and requires personal attention of researcher while filling/answering the questions. This is practically not possible every time.

2) Suitability of Respondents : 
It is very difficult for the researcher to control the administration of the exercise. It is also possible that the questionnaire is not filled by the intended individual or institution and delegated to someone else. Many times, it is filled by ant inappropriate respondent, which causes incorrect data collection. Therefore, there is no control over who fill the questionnaire.

3) Possibility of Invalid Responses : 
The questionnaire is a one-time data collection process. Once the respondent has given his answers, it is often very difficult for him/her to give a fresh perspective. Rarely any researcher goes to the participants for the confirmation of responses. Thus, there is no assurance that the responses are appropriate. This leads to the possibility of invalid responses.

4) Low Response Rates : 
Questionnaires face low response from the individuals or concerned people as it is time-taking and sometimes boring. Its response rate is often as low as 5 to 10%, which is unable to serve the purpose of research work. Low response rates affect the reliability of a questionnaire severely.

5) Requires the Respondent to be Educated : 
A questionnaire requires that the respondent has a particular level of education and awareness otherwise he might not be able to answer the questionnaire.

6) Difference In Contexts : 
The wordings of a questionnaire can often mean different things in different cultures. Hence, a standardized form not always possible.

7) Possibility of Misunderstanding : 
Many times the behavioral expressions of the respondents are not exactly identified by the researchers. Irrelevant answers or answers of misunderstood questions can cause a trouble in data analysis.

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