What is Questionnaire Design? Characteristics, Types, Don’t

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What is Questionnaire Design?

Questionnaire design is the process of creating a structured set of questions that are used to collect information from respondents. It involves careful planning and consideration of various factors to ensure the questionnaire is effective in gathering the desired data. The design of a questionnaire plays a crucial role in the success of a survey or research study, as it directly impacts the quality and reliability of the data collected.

Concept of Questionnaire Design

Questionnaire is an orderly and practical technique to ask and answer questions. It is suitable to any field seeking a public perspective of a specific issue, but it is also relevant in intrapersonal relationships such as interviews, job, or student positions where evaluation is required. To create a questionnaire, you must consider each significant topic to be addressed; often, they are ones that have a direct impact on society. In contrast to surveys, most questions are created in specific locations.

One of the most important aspects of the survey is that it is informal in nature and is based on questions and responses that are administered orally and answers are recorded by the researchers. Apart from this, it follows the same structure as a questionnaire. There are procedures that are directly based on questionnaires, such as inscriptions, in which those who receive care must fill out a form of minimum requirements in order for the registration to be approved.

The same is true for the national census, in which the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India under Ministry of Home Affairs creates specific forms so that the agents can go out and conduct general population surveys. This technique produces statistical data that are critical to the country’s development in areas such as economics, health care, housing, and education, among others. The questionnaire is a generic tool, also known as a questionnaire summary of questions and answers that is used as a study guide to prepare for an exam.

Characteristics of Questionnaire

Regardless of the type of questions you ask in your questions, the following qualities stay consistent. Important characteristics of questionnaire are:

Sequence of Questions

To enhance the rate of answer to the questions, a correct succession of questions should be used. As a result, creating a structured series of questions that include questions in a sequence is required. Screening questions, warm-up questions, skip questions, transition questions, complicated questions, and classification questions are among the questions in the series.


The consistency of questions is critical for keeping respondents engaged in the survey until the finish. The consistency of questions is critical, especially when collecting information from respondents about personal opinions, demographic data, or facts. By maintaining the uniformity and using standardised format of a questionnaire, better responses can be obtained. This feature aids in the data’s statistical analysis.


The questionnaire’s exploratory features aid in the collection of qualitative data. A researcher is free to ask any question as long as it is relevant for a given topic under consideration. A questionnaire’s exploratory character aids in gathering extensive information about a subject.

Types of Questions Used in Questionnaire

Some of the different types of questions that are used in questionnaires are:

Cascade Format/Contingency Questions

A question that can only be answered if the respondent has given a certain answer to a preceding inquiry. This keeps people from being bombarded with irrelevant questions.

Matrix Question

Questions about the Matrix Multiple questions have the same response categories allocated to them. The questions are stacked one on top of the other to form a matrix with response categories on the top and a list of questions on the bottom. This makes efficient use of page space as well as respondents’ time. The BIS/BAS scale developed by Carver and White is an example. The behavioural approach system (BAS)/behavioural avoidance (or inhibition) system is a type of behavioural avoidance (or inhibition) system.

Open-ended Question

An open-ended inquiry is a form of a question that requires participants to react in their own words without being limited to predefined response options. Infinite response or unsaturated type questions are other names for them. In and of themselves, open-ended questions are organised. Despite the fact that they are looking for unstructured responses, the questionnaire’s question arrangement has a clear pattern.

Advantages of open-ended questions are:

  • Helps in collecting opinions
  • Ensures more room for answers
  • Requires less preparation time
  • Involves a wider range of responses

However, the responses to open-ended questions are more difficult to decipher and the respondents must exert more effort.

Close-ended Question

Close-ended questions are those that limit the interviewee’s responses to pre-defined response alternatives. When the respondent has a definite answer to give (for example, gender), when the researcher has a predefined set of answers in mind, when detailed narrative information is not required, or when there are a finite number of ways to answer a question, such inquiries are considered acceptable.

Features of close-ended questions are:

  • Take longer to create
  • Can be analysed more rapidly
  • Save respondents’ time
  • Can be frustrating if respondent is unable to locate exact answer
  • Limit the respondent from thinking much about their own response

Designing an Effective Questionnaire

Designing questionnaires can be a great way to practise excellent cross-communication because it puts the person framing them to the test. The answer to getting responses is to effectively translate the intended inquiry substance into relevant terms. To be explicit, give alternatives and explain meanings, which makes questions lengthier. In these situations, a lack of acceptable wording can cause the respondent to misunderstand the question and give inappropriate answers or may even refuse to respond.

or may even refuse to respond. A questionnaire acts as a standard guide for interviewers who must all ask the same questions in the same manner. Without these criteria, questions would be asked at the discretion of the individual in a random manner. Questionnaires play a significant role in the data collection process. They are the medium on which replies are recorded so that data analysis may be done more easily.

While developing a questionnaire, following five persons are involved:

  • Client: The client is the one who is looking for answers to their specific problem and, on occasion, for their darkest worries to be proven to be unfounded or unrealistic.

  • Researcher: The researcher’s job is to unearth knowledge while balancing the needs of the client and respondents. The researcher must guarantee that the interviewer can readily manage the questionnaire and that the questions are engaging for the respondent, and lastly, the researcher must ensure that the questionnaire is tailored to the client’s requirements.

  • Interviewer: The interviewers usually want an easy-to-follow questionnaire that can be completed in the time allotted by the researcher.

  • Respondents: They generally want to have a good time during the interview. They must believe that the questions are written in such a way that they can be answered honestly and that they can truly communicate what he or she believes. They might also wish to know if they will be compensated for their time and opinions.

  • Data-processor: The data processor is looking for a questionnaire that will produce data that can be processed quickly and accurately.

A questionnaire has three primary components:

  • General form or Forma generica: There are two types of questionnaires: structured and unstructured. Structured
    questionnaires contain structured questions which are those in which the answers are specific, concrete, and preset. All responders are asked the same questions in the same language and in the same order. All questions and answers are described in a carefully structured questionnaire, and comments in the respondents’ own words are minimised.

  • Question sequence: The question sequence must be concise and fluid. The odds of an individual question being misunderstood are greatly reduced when questions are asked in the correct order. The first few questions are crucial since they are the ones that are most likely to be asked in order to sway respondents’ opinions and obtain his desired collaboration.

  • Formulation and wording of the question: To avoid giving a biased impression of the genuine condition of affairs, the question should be very clear and impartial. The questions should, in general, fit the following criteria:

    • Simple and easy to understood

    • Only one notion should be conveyed at a time

    • Avoid ambiguous terms, catchwords, and words with emotional connotations

    • Be specific and as close to the respondent’s point of view as feasible

    • Words that are dangerous, catchy, or have emotional overtones should be avoided

Eleven No’s in Question Designing

While developing a questionnaire, the researchers need to develop a set of relevant questions in an optimum sequence. While developing the questions, the following 11 No’s must be taken care of:

No Question Without Objective

The researcher must ensure that each question contained in the questionnaire should have an objective. Developing questions without an objective should be avoided.

For example, if a research is being conducted to assess the knowledge of respondents related to sexually transmitted diseases and the researcher proposed the use of an analytical framework without considering the educational background of respondents; then, it will not be of any use to ask a question like “Which subject did you study at university before you joined the recent job?”

No Complex Language

The researchers must ensure that the language and the complexity of vocabulary must be understandable for the respondents. The researchers should try to use the vocabulary of the respondents. Also, simple language should be used. Researchers should avoid the use of rhetorical and elite language as it become difficult to administer such questionnaires.

For example: “Did you realise the complexities of life in a different way by the behaviour of your spouse when you were tested positive with HIV/AIDS?” is a complex and verbose question whereas “Does your spouse know that you are HIV positive?” is a simple question.

No Ambiguous Concepts

The researchers must take care that ambiguous concepts should not be incorporated in the questions.

For example: If a researcher asks a question “What is your opinion about some medical researches that pledge for the high prevalence of transmission of HIV among elite group of Nepal after restoration of multiparty system?”; then, it will be considered as an ambiguous question as it contains three major elements namely medical research, HIV transmission and restoration of multiparty democracy. Two other minor elements also include elite group and high prevalence. In such cases, the respondents would not be able to correctly form their opinion.

No Leading and Embarrassing Questions (Wording, Leading and Threatening)

Researchers must be careful that they do not develop any leading or embarrassing questions as people may feel offended to answer these questions. Biased questions may elicit biased responses. Therefore, biased questions must be avoided.

For example: If a questionnaire contains questions such as “Don’t you agree that the persons with HIV positive have also rights to marry?” or “Suppose, you are suffering from HIV positive, should not you have the right to marry?”; such questions usually lead the respondent to provide answer that matches the positive or negative tone of the question itself.

No Shorter Checklist (Response Set)

The researchers must ensure that there are adequate answer alternatives for the given questions.

For example: A question like “What was your age when you got married? with options: a. Less than 20 and b. 20 or more” is not quite appropriate. Rather, the researcher should just leave this question open-ended.

No Longer Questions

Researchers should try to ensure that every question is short and must be contained within a single sentence only. The question must also be in accordance with the cognitive capacity of the respondents.

For example, a question such as: “The methods used intentionally by a couple to avert the birth of child in the future are known as family planning methods. Such methods are natural, mechanical, surgical and chemical in nature.

Had you or your spouse ever used one of such methods with an intention to avert the birth of a child?” is quite long but the question statement at end of question clarifies the answer. Therefore, such cue statements and questions are allowed in questionnaires. However, a question such as “When you first moved from your house to the place of destination and you had an additional baby born, and what was the difference between your income of place of origin and of the place of destination” is inappropriate and must not be included in the questionnaire.

No 2 in 1

Researchers should avoid merging two questions into one to avoid confusing the respondents. It is possible that some respondents answer the latter question and some answer the former. Not all respondents provide answers to the both parts.

For Example: a question like “When did you get married and how many days of honeymoon you enjoyed in Maldives” contains two different questions which must be segregated.

No Double Negative (Double Barrelled)

Researchers must ensure that there are no double negatives in the language of question. Double negative refers to a positive statement but its sound is negative. It may also create confusion for the interviewers and respondents. For Example: “Do not you want to move from this place not to expose yourself?” is a double barrelled question. Rather a question like “Do you want to move from this place to hide yourself?” would be better.

No Calculations

Researchers must avoid any questions that involve calculations at all costs. It is so because the respondents usually hesitate in doing calculations. There is always a possibility that wrong answers are received. At times, respondents who cannot calculate, give wrong answers to hide their ignorance.

For Example: A question such as “What per cent of your income is spent for the health care per month?” is quite calculative. Rather, a combination of two questions such as “What is your monthly income?” and “How much did you spend in your health care last month?” can be used.

No Longer and Vague Reference Periods

Researchers should use exact and shorter reference periods as longer reference periods cause recall lapse errors which may mislead the research.

For example, a question such as “After the year of greater earthquake or in these ten years how many times did you visit to health post for antenatal check-ups?” has vague reference period as compared to question such as ”How many times did you visit to health post for check-up during the period of your last pregnancy (or three months)?” is appropriate.

No Reference of Previous Questions

Researchers must not include reference to previous questions.

For example, a question like “As I asked in Question number 12 above about ….. “ should be avoided.

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