Questionnaires are used for business research in all industries. Business owners use them to poll employees, customers, potential customers and the public at large. After they review the responses and compile the data, they apply what they have learned to existing procedures, policies and product lines. For example, a bookstore owner might use a questionnaire to determine which genres his customers read most often.


Business owners conduct research questionnaires in person, over the telephone, via Internet or through the mail. Internet questionnaires eliminate the cost of printing or mailing documents. However, the Internet does make it more difficult to choose and identify respondents. In-person and telephone questionnaires involve the administrator asking the respondent questions, then recording the answers. The possibility for human error or bias exists, which can result in inaccurate data collection. Questionnaires usually involve simple questions with multiple-choice answers regardless of delivery method.


There are two basic parts to any business research questionnaire. The first is personal data, such as the name, address, phone number and demographic information pertaining to the respondent. The second is the questionnaire itself, which consists of questions or prompts. Some questionnaires employ a combination of multiple choice, true/false, and fill-in-the-blank answers. Administrators often request personal data at the end of the questionnaire so the respondent does not quit because of invasive questions.


Market research is one of the most common functions of a questionnaire. The administrator asks questions about the respondent's use of certain products, brand preferences, shopping habits and spending levels. A business owner might also give a questionnaire to his employees. He can learn about job satisfaction, wage expectations and other aspects of employee happiness. Administrators must define a purpose for the questionnaire before drafting it. Without a narrow focus, the business cannot apply what it has learned effectively.


Business research questionnaires can include two types of questions. Open-format questions allow the respondent to draft his own answer, while closed-format questions require the respondent to choose from a list of predetermined answers. An open-format questionnaire is more difficult to evaluate because the reviewer must read each individual answer and find a way to record it amongst the other answers. However, when writing closed-format answers, administrators must provide clear instructions about how to choose the appropriate answer. Ambiguous questions will confuse the respondent.


A business research questionnaire is an inexpensive way to amass data from a large group of respondents. However, when making important decisions about policies, products, and services, business owners must consider the demographics of the respondents as well as how the questions are worded. A professional survey or questionnaire research group can help business owners draft questions that result in usable data. Shorter questionnaires are usually more effective than longer ones.