Clearly there are a number of different stakeholders in the questionnaire, on each of whom the way in which it is written and laid out will have an effect. There can be up to five different groups of people who have an interest in the questionnaire, and each one has a different requirement of it:
- The clients, or people commissioning the survey, require the questionnaire to collect the information that will enable them to answer their business objectives.
- The interviewers, where used, want a questionnaire that is straightforward to administer, has questions that are easily understood by respondents, and has somewhere where they can easily record those responses.
- Respondents want a questionnaire that poses them questions that they can answer without too much effort, and that maintains their interest, without taking up too much of their time.
- The data processors want a questionnaire layout that allows for uncomplicated data entry, where necessary, and for the straightforward production of data tables or other analyses that may be required.
- The researcher or questionnaire writer has to strive to meet all of these people’s needs, and to do so whilst working within the parameters of a budget that has usually been agreed with the client, which in turn means working within an agreed interview length and survey structure.
It is not always possible to meet all of these needs at the same time.
One of the roles of the researcher is to juggle the demands of the different stakeholders. The two stakeholders who must be given the highest priority are the client – whose information needs must be met – and the respondent – whose cooperation we rely on first to agree to be interviewed and then to answer our questions truthfully, which can sometimes require significant mental effort. Respondents are generally volunteers who are giving their time, frequently for no reward, and, apart from the impact on the quality of the data, we have no right to bore them or antagonize them. To do so is only likely to rebound on their willingness to take part in future surveys. Against their needs, though, we sometimes have to balance those of the interviewer and data processor, in the knowledge that, if we make the questionnaire too complex or difficult for them, we are increasing the risk of errors occurring.
The questionnaire writer’s job can be summarized, then, as being to write a questionnaire that collects the data required to answer the objectives of the study as objectively as possible and without irritating or annoying the respondents, whilst minimizing the likelihood of error occurring at any stage in the data collection and analysis process.
Source: Brace Ian (2018), Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research, Kogan Page; 4th edition.