How to Evaluate a Questionnaire
Questionnaires can be a great way to gather information that can help your business attain goals and reach new heights of success. They also can be deceptively simple to create, which is why many business people make the mistake of rushing to write and disseminate them without properly evaluating them first. If your co-workers or even your supervisor are resisting this vital step, advise them to slow down and evaluate the questionnaire with a collective fine-tooth comb. The extra time you spend will be a pittance compared to the veracity of the information you gather.
Keep your questionnaire short -- with no more than 20 questions -- and simple to read. The more straightforward it is, the more likely it will be completed.
Include a brief introduction and statement of purpose for your questionnaire. People who feel as though their answers are valued and important are more likely to give thoughtful answers.
Strive for a blend of multiple choice and open-ended questions, and rating and agreement scales. Rating scales ask people to deem a product or service from, say, excellent to poor while agreement scales gauge respondents’ judgments from, say, strongly agree to strongly disagree. Group questions by category on your questionnaire.
Distill the word choices to ensure the language on your questionnaire is neutral. For example, do not use adjectives such as “Republican” or “Democrat.” In fact, scrutinize all adjectives to determine whether they are truly necessary.
Ensure that the questions are neither leading nor loaded. For example, do not ask, “How many magazines do you read each month?” This question infers that people read magazines in the first place, and since people are predisposed to answer questionnaires in an affirmative manner, you could get misleading results. Better to ask, “What do you read, either online or in print form, at least once a month?”
Be sure that all the answer choices on your questionnaire consider all alternatives. In the previous example, you might want to include choices such as newspapers, magazines and blog posts, but you also should include “nothing” as a choice as well.
Place simpler questions at the top of the questionnaire and more difficult, sensitive or controversial questions at the bottom. The logic is, if people become flustered and quit answering your questions at the end, at least you will have obtained some information early on.
Review the layout of the questionnaire. It should be pleasing to the eye, with boxes that are large enough to check and enough lines for respondents to complete open-ended questions.
Leave space at the bottom of the questionnaire for “other comments.” More than a mere afterthought, this invitation could yield a variety of unexpected and valuable responses.
Vet your questionnaire on a test group before administering it to a wider audience, if possible. Tweak it accordingly if your test group expresses confusion over some of your questions.