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How to design a questionnaire?

The most common research instrument is the questionnaire. Poorly designed questionnaires do not uncover the information you are seeking. Pretest any question with a few people to see which questions are being misunderstood or are not effective in drawing out the type of response you are interested in. Keep these tips in mind when designing your market research questionnaire.


  • Keep it simple.
  • Include instructions for answering all questions included on the survey.
  • Begin the survey with general questions and move towards more specific questions.
  • Keep each question brief.
  • If the questionnaire is completed by the respondent and not by an interviewer or survey staff member, remember to design a questionnaire that is graphically pleasing and easy to read.
  • Remember to pre-test the questionnaire. Before taking the survey to the printer, ask a few people-such as regular customers, colleagues, friends or employees-to complete the survey. Ask them for feedback on the survey's style, simplicity and their perception of its purpose.
  • Mix the form of the questions. Use scales, rankings, open-ended questions and closed-ended questions for different sections of the questionnaire. The "form" or way a question is asked may influence the answer given.

Types of Questions

There are two common formats for questions

1. Closed-ended questions

Respondents choose from possible answers included on the questionnaire.

Types of closed-end questions include:

  • True/False questions which offer respondents the ability to answer yes or no.
  • Multiple choice questions which offer respondents one or more choices from a list of several answers.
  • Scales refer to questions that ask respondents to rank their answers or measure their answer at a particular point on a scale. For example, a respondent may have the choice to rank their feelings towards a particular statement. The scale have values such as Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Indifferent, Agree, and Strongly Agree

2. Open-ended questions

Respondents answer questions in their own words. Completely unstructured questions allow respondents to answer any way they choose.

Types of open-ended questions include:

  • Word association questions ask respondents to state the first word that comes to mind when a particular word is mentioned.
  • Sentence, story or picture completion questions ask respondents to complete partial sentences, stories or pictures in their own words. For example, a question for commuters might read: "My daily commute between home and office is _____ miles and takes me an average of ______ minutes. I use the following mode of transportation: _______."





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