Research Writing

What is Survey questionnaire How to design a survey questionnaire

survey questionnaire is a useful tool for standardizing and comparing data. With it, it is possible to collect a large volume of information, relatively quickly. Tabulation and analysis also end up facilitating the formulation of statistics, graphs and other elements.

The Survey questionnaire characteristics

Questionnaire length

The longer the questionnaire, the more difficult it will be to get the interviewee to agree to do it and, above all, to keep paying attention. For this reason, in most surveys it is recommended to use short questionnaires, focused on the analysis of a single topic, with an extension of about ten questions, collecting the most important ones at the beginning.

You must measure the time that a respondent will take on average to answer. It is recommended not to exceed 5 minutes by phone and 15 minutes in person.

Order and structure of the questionnaire

It is important to start from a script that serves as the basis for building a logical sequence. For example, start with an introduction or presentation that encourages the interviewee to answer, explain what the questionnaire will consist of, and inform them of the guarantees of anonymity and confidentiality.

It is convenient to number the questions and avoid those that are very similar. At the beginning of the questionnaire, simple and general questions are usually included to engage the interviewee, leaving the more complex and specific questions in second place. All this while maintaining coherence in the order of the topics covered.


Efforts must be made to use simple, direct and neutral language, adapting to the socioeconomic characteristics of the respondent and avoiding statements or possible answers that could condition or confuse them, as well as specialized jargon.

Filter questions and control questions

Filter questions are used to confirm whether or not the person answering belongs to the population group to be studied. They can be part of the personal data that the interviewee is asked for.

The control questions are used to check the veracity and coherence of the answers, they consist of asking the same thing again in another way.

Keep attention

It is convenient to use different types of questions to maintain attention and so that the questionnaire does not become very repetitive.

In online questionnaires you can use elements that make answering more enjoyable, such as the use of scroll bars for responses with scales or levels.

The pretest

Before using your questionnaire massively, test it with a few respondents, five may be enough. This pretest will help you detect errors and questions that are not clear and thus be able to refine the structure and style of the questionnaire and the questions.

Types of questions in a Survey questionnaire

open, free response

They allow more information to be collected and the respondent to express himself more freely. However, they make the statistical analysis process very difficult and lengthen and can sometimes offer very poor results if the respondent counts almost nothing, something relatively common since these questions require a greater effort from the person answering.

They are used in investigations in which the sample is small and in which the possible answers of the respondents are not well known, for which reason they want to be given more freedom.

Example: What are they for you? What are the most decisive characteristics when hiring a computer service? ___________________________________________________


The answer alternatives are predefined and limited. Its preparation takes a little more time since it is necessary to assess the possible answers. Its advantage is that the statistical analysis process is much faster and more effective, although the responses of the respondent are limited to changes, with the risk of leaving out some possible responses.

Its completion is usually faster and requires less effort from the respondent since he does not have to write or explain what he thinks, but it is enough for him to choose or value among the response options provided.

Many people are used in surveys where they know the possible answers well.

Example: What are they for you? What are the most decisive characteristics when hiring a computer service?

– personal knowledge

– The experience of the company or professional

– References from other clients you have had

– The price

There are several types of closed questions. Online survey page templates are an excellent source of question types and templates. Here we include the most common.

Dichotomous questions : to choose between two options.


Gender: __ Male __ Female

Have you visited our establishment on Calle Mayor? __ Otherwise

Exclusive or single answer questions : when only one answer is allowed.

Example: How many days a week do you connect? to Internet?

__ None

__ One or two

__ Three or four

__ Five or more

Multiple Choice Questions – When multiple answers are allowed.

Example: What kind of devices do you connect with? to Internet?

__ Laptop

__ tablet

__ Smartphone

__ Smart TV

Questions with rating scale : when an assessment is requested

Example 1: What is your degree of satisfaction with the service received on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the minimum and 5 the maximum?

Example 2: Rate from 0 to 10 the following elements of the product

__ Design

__ Manageability

__ Speed

__ Noise

How to design a survey questionnaire

As in any stage of a scientific investigation, there is no ready model. The format and questions to be included in the questionnaire depend on the objectives of the study. Therefore, the following tips are only a general guideline, not a rule to be followed. Follow along.

Define the nature of the work

The research can be cross- sectional , when data collection takes place in a specific period. For example, check how many residences in a condominium have cable TV. Another possibility is the longitudinal study , which takes place over time. It would be, let’s say, a survey of the city’s birth and death rates in the last decade.

Scope definition is directly linked to the objectives and research problem . Having clear what you want to know, it is easier to define the type of question to be asked to the public.

Note the language and relevance of the questions

Each interrogative must have a purpose. Interviewees may be embarrassed by intimate questions, even more so if they have to answer them directly to the researcher. Therefore, check the need to carry out each questioning. The data obtained must be relevant .

Once this filtering is done, be sure to write sentences with simple words , suitable for people’s vocabulary. Despite the academic purpose, a research questionnaire is applied with “common people”, who are not always familiar with technical terms.

structure the questions

Questions can be qualitative (open) or quantitative (closed). Again, the choice depends on the information you want to obtain.

For example, you can ask your audience, “What is your monthly income?”. It is possible that each respondent indicates a different value, which would make it difficult to tabulate the data. Therefore, a reasonable output would be a closed multiple-choice question . Alternatives could be:

  • Zero to BRL 1,000.00;
  • BRL 1,001.00 to BRL 2,000.00;
  • BRL 2,001.00 to BRL 3,000.00;
  • BRL 3,001.00 to BRL 4,000.00;
  • BRL 4,001.00 or more.

In this case, the answers would indicate work accidents with sick leave, and unpaid leave for personal matters. In the latter case, the firm may cut the employee’s salary ranges, not exact values. There would be a loss in the accuracy of the information . However, data compilation would be faster.

take a test

Once the objectives and target audience of the survey have been defined, it is worth carrying out a test phase. Apply the investigation instrument with a small group and see if there are any difficulties. Some questions may be confusing .

Imagine the following question: “Do you have a formal job?”. If the answer is binary (yes/no), it will leave out entrepreneurs, freelancers and informal workers. The tendency is for them to say “no”, even if they have a paid job.

When designing a research questionnaire, details like this can go unnoticed. That’s why testing becomes so important. Include, at the end, a field for suggestions and comments. With feedback from the respondents and the necessary adjustments, the study will be ready to move forward.

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