Responsibilities to clients as ethical issues of the questionnaires

Ethical behaviour does not just extend to the relationship between ques­tionnaire writer and respondent, however. The questionnaire writer also has a responsibility to behave ethically towards the client.

Much has been written in previous chapters about designing questions that are unbiased and strive to capture the best and most accurate data. This is not just a matter of good questionnaire design. There is also an ethical and moral duty to provide clients with data that are the best that can be obtained in order to meet their objectives and answer their questions.

The questionnaire writer has an ethical duty to ensure that the ques­tionnaire is fit for the purpose of the study. Deliberately introducing bias in order to support a particular point of view is unethical and is rarely of value to the client’s organization.

The client should always be given the opportunity to comment on the questionnaire. Most quality control procedures require that the client signs off the questionnaire as having been agreed. It is the questionnaire writer’s responsibility to ensure that the client has sufficient time to consider the questionnaire and any implications for the data to be collected before being asked to agree it.

By implication, questions should not be included to which the client has not agreed. It can be tempting to add questions on a different topic, possibly for a different client, where the sample definition for the two subject areas is the same. It is unethical to do this without the agreement of both clients.

Also, where one client has paid for the development of a questionnaire, it is ethically unacceptable to use it for another client’s survey. It is, of course, to be expected that the questionnaire writer will draw upon their experience when writing the second questionnaire, but usually the ques­tionnaire is considered to be the property of the client who paid for its development unless specified otherwise in the contract. Questionnaires that the research company have developed themselves, without being paid by a client to do so, are the property of the research company and can be used for multiple clients.

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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