Questionnaires are usually used to collect data from a diverse and large group of people. Some businesses use questionnaires to assess product launches or to gauge customer satisfaction. Other uses of questionnaires include judging the public's responses to hot social topics, such as politics or current legislation. They are commonly written with closed questions, which means each question needs to be answered with only a short word or phrase.
Questionnaires can printed or sent via email to as many people as a company or person needs -- this means that up to thousands of people can be reached all at once. Self-completion questionnaires are those that people can fill out on their own, saving on the time and money needed to hire people to query the public. Another advantage of a questionnaire is that it can be answered anonymously; this means that sensitive and personal questions are much more likely to be answered truthfully.
Online questionnaires cost even less than mailed ones and can be posted on websites and through email campaigns. Online questionnaires can seem like less effort than filling out a document and sending it back by mail. The user is often only required to click a "send" button and the creator immediately gets back the results. Online questionnaires also digitally store responses, which means each answer can be uploaded into an analysis system. This makes compiling the results much faster and easier than word processing every hand-written answer.
Despite the benefits, one disadvantage of questionnaires is that they might be considered boring by the public -- people are less likely to spend their spare time answering random questions if there is no obvious benefit for them. Some questionnaire distributors try to combat this by offering prizes and rewards for answering the questions. But this can actually be counter-productive; people might quickly, but not thoroughly, fill out their answers just to get their hands on the prize. According to the SocyBerty website, questionnaires also have a very low response rate, which often makes them unrepresentative of the audience they are trying to target.
Writing and Conducting Your Own
According to an article by Birmingham City University in the UK, the secret to a good questionnaire is to keep it short, clear and concise. A clear set of questions encourages people to answer every one. With most people being busy, a short series of questions requiring only two or three minutes to complete can make someone more willing to complete a survey. The article also mentions that people may be more willing to answer a questionnaire if they get something in return. Some questionnaire distributors promise respondents a copy of the results so they can see how they fit in with the overall target audience. Others might automatically place respondents in a raffle or lottery for prizes and/or cash winnings.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images