The objectives of the study relating to the questionnaire

1. Relating research objectives to business objectives

The brief that the researcher receives may sometimes include the business objectives for the study and the research objectives required to achieve them. For example:

Business objective: to enter the mobile telecoms market with a pricing package that is attractive to at least 60 per cent of the current contract market.

Research objectives:

  • to determine the distribution of the amount that mobile telecoms users who have a contract pay per month;
  • to determine how that amount is made up from standing charges, call charges and special offers and discounts;
  • to determine level of satisfaction with current supplier;
  • to determine the level of price advantage that would be required for them to consider switching supplier.

However, it is not uncommon for researchers to be given only the busi­ness objectives or only the research objectives.

If researchers are provided only with the business objectives, then the implication is that they should determine what the research objectives should be in order to meet the business objectives. These should be agreed with the client or business manager, to ensure that no misunder­standings have occurred regarding the business objectives and that no areas of information have been omitted.

Sometimes researchers are supplied only with the research objectives. It is perfectly possible for the questionnaire to be written from these alone. However, the more background that questionnaire writers have as to how the data are to be used, the more they are able to ensure that all relevant questions are included, that every question serves a purpose, and that response codes used are appropriate to the business objective. In the above example, the business manager may have had a belief that the target market for the new service should be people aged less than 30 years, but nevertheless wished to examine the whole market. This may not have been apparent from the research objectives and could have resulted in the question recording age on the questionnaire having the category 25 to 34-year-olds, and omitting the age break at 30. It is there­fore incumbent on the questionnaire writer to obtain as much informa­tion as possible about the business objectives in order to maximize the value of the study.

Sometimes client researchers will ask their internal clients to provide a list of the questions to which they want answers, perhaps under the heading of ‘information needs’. These are not necessarily questions that can be asked of respondents – they may often contain ‘company jargon’ – but they can provide a clearer understanding of the underlying issues driving the research and the business objectives.

2. Relating the questionnaire to the research objectives

The first task therefore is to determine what the questions are that need to be asked. These will be a function both of the research objectives and of the survey design to be used. Thus it may be clear from the information needs of the study that certain questions must be asked, eg whether or not a car is owned, the number and ages of children in the family, whether or not the respondent ever buys pasta sauce. The research technique to be used may also require that certain types of question are asked, eg a paired compari­son product test will almost certainly require questions to compare the respondent’s preference between the products, or an advertising aware­ness study will require questions about advertising recall.

Proprietary or specific techniques will often determine not only what types of questions must be asked but will be quite specific about the format of these questions. Some advertising tracking techniques will not only require that questions be asked about advertising awareness but will also determine the almost exact wording of the question and where in the interview it should be asked. Another example would be where a trade­off or conjoint technique is to be used, when the format of the relevant questions may be predetermined.

The objective is not simply to take the study objectives and to write a question against each one. That is generally far too simplistic and can yield facile and misleading information. A series of processes is needed to arrive at the questionnaire from the study objectives. It is one of the skills of the researcher to turn the objectives of the study into a set of informa­tion requirements, and from there to create questions to provide that information and then to turn those into a questionnaire.

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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