How to make a good Questionnaire!
The first question is one you should ask yourself:
What do I hope to learn from asking the questions?
This defines your objectives: what you want to achieve by the end of the survey.
Example: you want to clean up the local river. You feel that with some help and some money you could make it really beautiful again.
You want to survey your local community to find out:
- Are other people also worried about the river.
- Are they willing to donate their time or money to help.
Now you know why you are doing a survey, start writing down the questions you will ask!
Just write down any questions you think may be useful. Don’t worry about quality at this stage, we will improve your list of questions later.
Example: Questions you could ask for the river survey:
- Does pollution worry you?
- Do you ever go down to the river?
- Can you spare some money to help the river?
- Have you noticed the pollution in the river?
- Are you happy to volunteer for river cleanup?
- When would you be available to help?
- How should we clean up the river?
You can also ask the person about themselves (not too personal!), such as age group, male or female, etc, so that you know the kind of people that you have been surveying.
Types of Questions
A survey question can be:
- Open-ended (the person can answer in any way they want), or
- Closed-ended (the person chooses from one of several options)
Closed ended questions are much easier to total up later on, but may stop people giving an answer they really want.
Example: What is your favorite color?
Open-ended: Someone may answer dark fuchsia , in which case you will need to have a category dark fuchsia in your results.
Closed-ended: With a choice of only 12 colors your work is easier, but they may not be able to pick their exact favorite color.
Example: What do you think is the best way to clean up the river?
Make it Open-ended: the answers won’t be easy to put in a table or graph, but you may get some good ideas, and there may be some good quotes for your report.
Example: How often do you visit the river?
Make it Closed-ended with the following options:
- Nearly every day
- At least 5 times a year
- 1 to 4 times a year
- Almost never
You can present this data in a neat bar graph.
It is important that the questions don’t lead people to the answer
Example: people may say yes to donate money if you ask the questions this way
But probably will say no if you ask the questions this way:
- Is lack of money a problem for you?
To avoid this kind of thing, try to have your questions go:
- from the least sensitive to the most sensitive
- from the more general to the more specific
- from questions about facts to questions about opinions
Example: I will ask people how often they visit the river (a fact) before I ask them what they feel about pollution (an opinion)
I will ask people their general feelings about the environment before I ask them their feelings about the river.
Your questions should also be neutral . allowing the person to think their own thoughts about the question.
The question Do you love nature? (in the example above) is a bad question as it almost forces the person to say Yes, of course.
Try changing the words to be more neutral, for example:
Example: How important is the natural environment to you?
But you can also make statements and see if people agree:
For each closed-ended question try to think:
What are the possible answers to this question?
Make sure you have most of the common answer available.
If you are not sure what people might answer, you could always try a small open ended survey (maybe ask your friends or people in the street) to find common answers.
Trick: try to avoid neutral answers (such as don’t care ) because people may choose them so they don’t have to think about the answer!
It is also helpful to have an other category in case none of the choices are satisfactory for the person answering the question.
Example: What is your favorite color?
Red, blue, green, yellow, purple, black, brown, orange, other
Sometimes you could have a scale on which they can rate their feelings about the question.
Have opposite words at either end and a scale in between like this:
Polluted :_____:_____:_____:_____:_____: Clean
Cleaning up the river is .
Easy :_____:_____:_____:_____:_____: Difficult
For this type of answer the person gets to rate or rank each option.
Don’t have too many items though, as that makes it too hard to answer.
Example: Please rank the following activities from 1 to 5, putting 1 next to your favorite through to 5 for your least favorite.
You can also just ask for a number
Example: How many times did you visit the river during the past year?