Questionnaire is printed form for data collection which includes questions or statements to
which the subject is expected to respond often anonymously.
In general the word questionnaire refers to a device for getting answers to questions by
using a form which the respondent fills in by himself.
As a matter of fact questionnaire is systematic compilation of questions that are subject to a
sample of population from which information is desired
Questionnaire is a kind of ‘stimulus’ Herbert (1989) which provokes the respondents to
give definite information.
Question forming is common to surveys, tests, interviews and questionnaires. But
questions are designed accordingly to meet the needs of a certain tool of research. For an example
in a questionnaire, the questions are written while in an interview they are oral. As we know there
is a lot of difference in written and spoken samples of languages so the format for the questions
will definitely different for different tools of research. Attitude, motivation, self concept, age,
previous knowledge etc are the variables which can be measured through questionnaires.
Questionnaires are used in connection with many modes of observation in research. They
serve as an essential tool in research. The format of a questionnaire is as important as the wording
of the questions asked. An improperly designed questionnaire can lead respondents to skip
questions, confuse respondents and in the extreme, lead people to refuse to respond.
The well structured questions are easy to analyse. Youngman (1986) have described seven types of
questions which are listed here under two main categories:
1. Verbal or Open
2. Closed or structured
1. Verbal or Open
Here in these question type, the respondent is free to give answer in his own words i.e.
expected response is a word, a phrase or an extended comment. Open format questions are those
that ask for unprompted opinions. In other words, there are no predetermined set of responses, and
the participant is free to answer however he chooses.
Open format questions are good for collecting subjective data. Here the range of responses
is not tightly defined. Response to verbal quest on can produce useful information.
Open format questions have several disadvantages. First, their very nature requires them
to be read individually. There is no way to automatically tabulate or perform statistical analysis
on them. This is obviously more costly in both time and money, and may not be practical for
lower budget or time sensitive evaluations. Finally, open format questions require more thought
and time on the part of the respondent. Whenever more is asked of the respondent, the chance of
tiring or boring the respondent increases which increases therate of non-response.
2. Closed or structured
This form of questions requires short and check responses. It may provide space for
making ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or just a ‘check’ from a list of suggested responses.
The main advantages claimed are as:
1. It is very easy to respond to such a question
2. It takes a little time to answer
3. It keeps the respondents in the subject
4. It is relatively subjective
5. It is fairly easy to tabulate and analyse
Draw backs of the closed form:
The closed form does not provide any opportunity to the respondent to express his views
very clearly as there is no scope for explanatory information. Closed format questions usually take
the form of a multiple-choice question. They are easy for the respondent to give the required
information in a very explicit way.
Closed or structured questions can be further divided into the following six types:
(i ) List
A list of items is offered to the respondent, any of which may be selected as a response. For
an example a question may ask about qualifications and the respondent may have several of the
qualification listed and one item from the list can be selected.
The response is one only of a given set of categories. For an example, if age categories are
provided as (20-29, 30-39, etc) the respondent can only fit into one category.
In ranking questions, the respondent is asked to place some items in rank order. For an
example the respondent may be asked to place qualities or characteristics in orders of preference.
There are various stages of scaling devices (nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio) which may be
used in questionnaires but they required careful handling.
(v ) Quantity
Here the response is a number (exact or approximate) giving the amount of some
characteristics. And one response can be selected by the respondent.
A table or grid is provided to record answers to two or more questions at the same time e.g.
How many TEFL students are there in the following classes?
0-5 5-10 10-15 15+
discovered that once they have tried and become familiar with different ways of analyzing and
presenting questionnaire responses to list, category, ranking, scale, quantity or grid questions , they
are able to select the most appropriate format when they come to stage of designing and analyzing
data in their project.
Principles for Designing a Questionnaire
Questionnaires are structured conservation with a purpose. The format of a questionnaire is
as important as the nature and wording of the questions asked. An improperly designed
questionnaire can lead respondents to miss the questions and confuse them and in the extreme, lead
them to refuse to respond. The purpose of asking questions is to elicit information from the
respondent. Some general rules should be followed in the design and wording of questions and
1. Making Items clear:
This is probably the area that causes the greatest source of mistakes in questionnaires.
Questions must be clear, concise, and unambiguous. The goal is to eliminate the chance that the
question will mean different things to different people. If the designer fails to do this, then
essentially participants will be answering different questions with different understanding.
Questionnaire items must be clear and unambiguous. They should be precise so that the respondent
knows exactly what question he/she is expected to answer.
To this end, it is best to phrase your questions empirically if possible and to avoid the use
of unnecessary adjectives. For example, if asking a question about frequency, rather than supplying
choices that are open to interpretation such as:
(i) Very Often
It is better to quantify the choices, such as:
(i) Every Day or More
(ii) 2-6 Times a Week
(iii) About Once a Week
(iv) About Once a Month
Most adjectives, verbs, and nouns in English have either a positive or negative
connotation. Two words may have equivalent meaning, yet one may be a compliment and the other
an insult. Consider the two words quot;child-likequot; and quot;childishquot;, which have virtually identical
A more subtle example can be made with verbs that have neither strong negative or
positive overtones. Consider the following two questions:
Do you agree with the Governor's plan to oppose increased development of wetlands?
Do you agree with the Governor's plan to support curtailed development of wetlands?
They both ask the same thing, but will likely produce different data. One asks in a positive
way, and the other in a negative. It is impossible to predict how the outcomes will vary, so one
method to counter this is to be aware of different ways to word questions and provide a mix
in questionnaire. If the selected sample is very large, several versions may be prepared and
distributed to cancel out these effects.
3. Hypothetical Questions
Hypothetical are based, at best, on supposition and, at worst, on fantasy. A simple question
If you were governor, what would you do to improve literacy in Pakistan?
This force the respondent to give thought to something he may have never considered. This does
not produce clear and consistent data representing real opinion. Do not ask hypothetical questions.
4. Leading Questions:
A leading question is one that forces or implies a certain type of answer. It is easy to
make this mistake not in the question, but in the choice of answers. A closed format question must
supply answers that not only cover the whole range of responses, but that are also equally
distributed throughout the range. An obvious, nearly comical, example would be a question that
supplied these answers choices:
(vi)Not so Great
Clearly, the negative response covers too wide a range of opinions as well but here
is only one negative choice. A better way would be to ask the same question but supply the
(i) Totally Agree
(ii) Partially Agree
(iii) Neither Agree or Disagree
(iv) Partially Disagree
(v) Totally Agree
This example is also poor in the way it asks the question. It's choice of words makes it a
5. Avoiding Double-Barreled Questions:
Never ask for a single answer to a combination of questions. In general, whenever the
words appear in a question or questionnaire statement, check whether this is a double-barreled
6. Asking Relevant Questions:
Questions asked should be relevant to most respondents. Disregard responses to fictitious
7. Using short Items:
Assume that respondents read items quickly and provide quick answers. Therefore,
provide clear, short items that will not be misinterpreted under such conditions.
8. Avoiding negative Terms:
Negations (e.g. the use of the word quot;notquot;) will often is read over, leading to
9. Avoiding Biased Items and Terms:
The manner in which data is sought determines the nature of the data received. The
identification of an attitude or position with a prestigious or popular person, for example, can bias
responses (e.g. President Clinton vs. Adolf Hitler).
10. Avoid the Ambiguity of Language:
When we say that there is an art of asking questions that give unbiased answers we mean
exactly that. There are rules that can be followed, but there is an art that comes with practice and
trial and error to asking questions fairly.
11. Avoid Embarrassing Questions:
Embarrassing questions dealing with personal or private matters should be avoided. Your
data is only as good as the trust and care that your respondents give you. If you make them feel
uncomfortable, you will lose their trust. Do not ask embarrassing questions.
12. Prestige Bias:
Prestige bias is the tendency for respondents to answer in a way that make them feel better.
People may not lie directly, but may try to put a better light on themselves. The best means to
deal with prestige bias is to make the questionnaire as private as possible. The farther away
the critical eye of the researcher is, the more honest the answers.
13. Avoid Technical Terms and Ethnic Expressions
Avoid the use of colloquial or ethnic expressions that might not be equally used by all
. Technical terms that assume a certain background should also be avoided.
14. Principle of confidentiality:
The information provided should be kept confidential and secrete.
Appearance and Layout of the Questionnaire
An excellently prepared questionnaire will lose its impact if it looks untidy. So layout,
format and appearance of questionnaire are very important. There are no hard and fast rules about
layout, but a few common-sense guidelines are given here that will help improve the appearance of
1. Questionnaire should be typed are printed.
2. Instructions should be clearly typed e.g. in bold are in capital with different font.
3. Spacing between the questions will help the respondent and the researcher while
analyzing the questionnaire.
4. Questionnaire should be at minimum number of sheets
5. Keep any response boxes in line towards the right of the sheet. This will make it easy
for respondents and will help researcher to get information.
6. If you intend to use a computer programme, allow spacing on the right of the sheet for
7. Look critically at your questionnaire and ask yourself what impression it would give if
you were the respondent.
8. Take care over the order of the questions. Leave sensitive issues to later in the
questionnaire. Start with straight forward, easy-to-complete questions and move
on to the more complex topics. So questions should be sorted out before start writing a
Writing the Questionnaire
At this point, we assume that we have already decided what kind of data we are to measure
and formulated the objectives of the investigation, and decided on a participant group. Now we
must compose our questions.
One obvious argument in favor of the beginning of the questionnaire is that normally
background questions are easier to answer and can ease the respondent into the
It is important to ask only those background questions that are necessary e.g. do not ask
income of the respondent unless there is at least some rational for suspecting a variance across
income levels. There is often only a fine line between background and personal information.
In general, there are two types of questions one will ask,
I. Open Format II .Closed Format.
An obvious advantage of Closed Format Questionnaire is that the variety of responses is
wider and more truly reflect the opinions of the respondents. This increases the likelihood of
receiving unexpected and insightful suggestions, for it is impossible to predict the full range of
opinion. It is common for a questionnaire to end with and open format question asking the
respondent for his/her unabashed ideas for changes or improvements.
There is no clear consensus on the number of options that should be given in a closed format
question. Obviously, there needs to be sufficient choices to fully cover the range of answers but not
so many that the distinction between them becomes blurred. Usually this translates into five
possible answers per questions.
Piloting the Questionnaire
Now that you've completed you questonnaire, it is still not ready to send it out. Just like
any manufactured product, your questionnaire needs to go through quality testing. Researcher
should try best to give the questionnaire a trial run. For this one can take help from friends, class
fellows, colleagues are even family members. Ideally it should be tried out on a group similar to
the population of the study. The purpose of the piloting exercise is to find out the time taken to
complete the questionnaire and to see whether wording and format create any problem. Researcher
will then review the questionnaire with the test takers and discuss all points that were in any way
confusing and work together to solve the problems. He will then produce a new improved
The following questions can be asked to the respondents in order to reproduce a better
1. How long it take you to complete?
2. Were the instructions clear?
3. Were any of the questions unclear or ambiguous? If so, will you say which and
4. Did you object to answering any of the questions?
5. In your opinion, has major topic been omitted?
6. Was the layout of the questionnaire clear/attractive?
7. Any comments?
The responses to the above questions will enable the researcher to revise the questionnaire
ready for the main distribution.
Distribution and Return of Questionnaire
Questionnaire can be distributed:
2. By Post
Researcher should try first to distribute questionnaire personally if not possible mailing
services can be used. Self-addressed stamped envelop should be included with questionnaire.
Two weeks is a reasonable time for completion. Give the precise day and date for the return rather
the instruction to return the questionnaire with in two weeks
A letter is sent with questionnaire explaining the purpose of the research which is called a
cover letter or Forwarding Letter. A specimen is given here:
Moser and Kalton (1971) pointed out ‘non-response is a problem’ as high rate of non-
response affects the validity and reliability of the findings of the study.
Scott (1961) accepts the non-response rate up to 10% as reasonable but higher than this can
distort the results.
Researcher should keep a careful record of the date questionnaire were distributed and the
date they were returned. Generally there is a good response at first and then returns slow down.
Inevitably, all of the questionnaires will not be returned by the date specified. To follow up non-
respondents a second letter and questionnaire will have to be sent. This second letter is called
follow up letter. A week after the original date for return, follow up letter should be sent. A
specimen of the follow up letter is given here:
Analysis of Data
In an ideal world, it would be best to wait for all questionnaires to be returned and to
glance through all response before beginning to code and record. But in a limited time project it
may be necessary to begin record as soon as the first questionnaires are returned.
Questionnaire design is a long process that demands careful attention. A questionnaire is a
powerful evaluation tool and should not be taken lightly. Questionnaires are like any scientific
experiment. One does not collect data and then see if they found something interesting. One
forms a hypothesis and an experiment that will help prove or disprove the hypothesis.
Modern computers have only made the task of collecting and extracting valuable material
more efficiently. However, a questionnaire is only as good as the questions it contains. There are
many guidelines that must be met before questionnaire can be considered a sound research tool.
The majority deal with making the questionnaire understandable and free of bias. Mindful review
and testing is necessary to weed out minor mistakes that can cause great changes in meaning and
interpretation. When these guidelines are followed, the questionnaire becomes a powerful and
economic evaluation tool
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Iqbal Open University.
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4. Rashid, Muhammad. (1987), Educational Research, Islamabad, Allama Iqbal Open
5. W, Herbert and Shohamy Elana,(1989), Second language Research Methods, London,
Oxford University Press.