How to Develop a Questionnaire

by Mary Barton; Updated September 26, 2017

Feedback from your target audience could determine whether your business succeeds or fails. A well designed questionnaire can help you to identify client habits; determine their satisfaction with product features; or their inclination to purchase your goods and services. It can also help you to better define your customer base. A methodical approach to putting together a questionnaire will elicit valuable information from your target audience.

Developing the Questionnaire

Step 1

Define the purpose of the questionnaire and decide what you want to get from it. Once the goal of the questionnaire is established, construct questions that will elicit the information you're looking for.

Step 2

Determine how you will distribute the questionnaire. Direct mail surveys can be inexpensive but response rates may be low and time consuming. Incentives to respond by a certain date, such as offering a free service or a discount on product purchase, generally encourage higher response rates. Telephone interviews provide interaction with customers and are not as expensive as face-to-face interviews. Internet surveys can be cost-effective with incentives providing a higher response rate and easy tabulation of results.

Step 3

There are a variety of question formats: Open-ended questions are easy to write and answer but can result in ambiguous responses that are not quantifiable. Fill-in-the-blank questions are used to select from a pre-set selection of answers. Yes/No questions are good for filtering and moving respondents to questions that apply only to them. In single-item choice questions, respondents select from more than two provided responses. Forced-choice questions are easy to measure and analyze but must be used with care so as not to divide the responders into incorrect categories. The most efficient format and the most difficult to design is the multiple-choice question. This format requires the designer of the questionnaire to provide distinct choices for the respondents to choose from.

Step 4

Write clear direct questions. Use simple sentence structure by presenting only one idea per question. Be specific, avoid abstract wording and words with several meanings. Place questions in a logical sequence with the most important questions at the top of the questionnaire. Provide definitions for difficult concepts to ensure that the responders understand the question being asked. Request personal information only if necessary and assure clients that their privacy will be protected.

Step 5

Keep the length of the questionnaire short and pre-test it to ensure the questions are clear and that time constraints are met. Modify and delete questions as is necessary before the final survey is printed or distributed.

About the Author

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mary Barton has been writing professionally since 1990. She has written two nonfiction books, worked as the product manager for a publishing company, an editor for two newspapers and was the content manager for various Microsoft websites. Barton has a Bachelor of Science in computer science from the University of Texas at El Paso.

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