Laying out the questionnaire in the international surveys

Where paper questionnaires are to be used the issue arises of how differ­ences between the layouts can be minimized. This is generally desirable if the questionnaire is broadly common to all countries.

1. Layout conventions

However, it is also important that local agencies use their own layout conventions where these differ. Mistakes are more likely to be made by interviewers if they are presented with an unfamiliar layout. Where a coordinating agency e-mails a laid-out questionnaire to the local agency, it may be necessary to instruct the local agency staff to lay it out in their own format. Because it is easy to use the coordinating agency’s file and simply type over the text in the local language, the interviewers may be presented with a completely unfamiliar style of layout. A further disad­vantage of this is that the local agency executives do not become as famil­iar with the questionnaire as they would have done if they had had to lay it out for themselves. They are then less likely both to spot unsuitable wordings and to be able to answer questions that may arise in the field.

2. Question numbering

A common question numbering scheme helps comparisons to be made easily for the same questions across countries. When the same question is being referred to there is a potential source of error if that question has a different number in each country. Checking of routeing instructions is also more straightforward if the same question numbers are used. However, a common question numbering scheme can mean that some question numbers are not used in some versions of the questionnaire. For example, where an additional question needs to be asked in one country only, that question number will not appear on questionnaires for all the other coun­tries in the study. This must be clearly marked on the questionnaires or it can cause confusion amongst interviewers. If there are so many missing question numbers that it creates difficulties for the interviewers to follow instructions, then consideration must be given to abandoning common question numbering for the sake of minimizing interviewer error.

Similar issues arise where manual data entry utilizes a column-based format. In order to minimize data-processing errors, a common column- number and response code format is desirable. That decision, though, needs to be balanced against the likelihood of it leading to data entry errors.

Source: Brace Ian (2018), Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research, Kogan Page; 4th edition.

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