Friday, 23 December 2011

Efficient Surveys for Desired Results

“Can you please fill this questionnaire? It’s for a project. Your help will be really appreciated.”

For such requests, these are the responses that one generally gets:

1: “Oh! Can you come back after 5 minutes? I’m kind of busy right now.”
2: “Another survey? Oh no!”

Some students would just respond by asking for a pen and randomly filling it out without even reading the questions.

This is one situation that almost every student dreads but goes through during his/her university life. There are many reasons underlying this force of aversion from filling out surveys and questionnaires. It is a matter of disgrace for us that even the most renowned universities don’t teach their students basic researching skills be it primary or secondary research. Thus students are usually unaware of how precise and good questionnaires should be designed so as to get the right responses out of the targeted respondents. Here I have put together some dos and don’ts of a survey questionnaire and how to design effective ones.

1) Keep it precise: Nobody wants to fill out a questionnaire if it exceeds more than a page or two. People don’t generally appreciate filling out questionnaires that take more than 5 minutes of their time. If two questions overlap somewhere, combine them to form one question.

2) Avoid personal questions: Keep in mind that you are getting general responses of your target audience focused towards your research domain. Want to ask about monthly incomes, age or their area of residence? Trust me! “Bad idea”.

3) Choose close-ended questions: Many students usually forget the difference between interviews, focus groups and surveys. Interviews usually have open ended questions whereas surveys shouldn’t. A good survey will always have concise and close-ended questions for ease of audience. For instance if you wish to ask what places they usually prefer for hang-outs, it would be good to provide a list of options yourself like “cinema, café, park etc.”

4) Do not use technical language: Whether you are a business, engineering or a medical student, it is advisable to use simple and easy to understand questions in your research. Using jargons and technical words will give you distorted results.

5) Provide sufficient information for understanding: So if you do want to ask about public opinion or focus on the qualitative analysis using rating scales, it is always courteous to explain them beforehand to avoid ambiguity. Thus if on your rating scale of 1 to 10, 1 means excellent then it would be better to mention how your scale works.

6) Divide it into parts: If your research focuses on multiple aspects then it is best to divide it into several sections each having relevant questions.

These are the key to designing a good questionnaire not just to facilitate respondents to respond but also when you start entering the data and analyzing the trends. Use these tips next time you start making a questionnaire and people won’t stop noticing how well it has been designed. Happy surveying :)