Types of Research Questionnaire and Structure
Data collection is a fundamental part of any type of scientific research. Both in practice and theory. There are several techniques and instruments for data collection available today. Therefore, knowing their diversity, characteristics and applications are fundamental for good research work. In this article, we bring you important information about the types of research questionnaires and their applications.
What is a Questionnaire?
Before going on to discuss the types of questionnaires used in research and how to structure those questions, there is a need to define what a questionnaire is all about.
A questionnaire is an investigation technique composed of a more or less high number of questions presented in writing to people, aiming at gathering the knowledge of opinions, beliefs, feelings, interests, expectations, situations experienced, etc.
Questionnaires as a Technique of Data Collection
Having established that a questionnaire is used to secure answers, it is now clear that it is a method of data collection in research. However, it is important to note that questionnaires are data collection instruments widely used in research whose object of study is populations or communities. It consists of a series of questions prepared by the researcher and answered in writing by the participant. In other words, the questionnaire collects information from a given reality. Therefore, it has an empirical nature.
Like we have discussed in types of research designs, questionnaires can be used for various types of research. Among the types of research where the questionnaire is common are action research, field research, research ex-post-facto, participatory research, and case study. Also, it is important to note that, although they are quite common in areas of the humanities and social sciences, they also apply in other areas of knowledge.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Questionnaire
All data collection instruments have their advantages and disadvantages. The role of the researcher is precisely to know how to analyze them critically so that his research is not compromised. Some of the advantages of the questionnaires are:
- Possibility of reaching a large number of people, since it can be sent by post or e-mail.
- It has fewer expenses, as it does not require training of researchers.
- It guarantees the anonymity of the people who answer it.
- People can answer you anytime they want; and
- The interviewees’ personal opinions do not influence the researchers during the collection.
On the other hand, many researchers have also pointed out the disadvantages of this type of instrument. Some of which include:
- Excludes a particular category of people from affecting the result acquired (illiterate people’s opinions cannot impact the results obtained).
- There is no room for further interrogation of answers provided and It prevents the clarification of any doubts that the interviewee has during the answers.
- The researcher is not aware of the circumstances in which the questionnaire was answered.
- There is no guarantee that people will fill it out properly. The fact that implies a significant decrease in the sample and its representativeness.
- It involves a small number of questions. Since extensive questionnaires are more likely to not be answered.
- Lack of objectivity in your results, since the same items can have different meanings for those who answer.
Difference Between Questionnaire and Survey
Many times, people tend to mix up survey and questionnaire. Although they have similarities such as data collection, they have their peculiarities. A questionnaire is a list of questions used to collect data about someone or something. It’s not used to do statistical analysis or find trends and patterns. A survey on the other hand is a bit different. Instead of looking at individual questionnaires, it’s used to understand trends, do a detailed analysis, and reveal deep insights. The key with a survey is that it’s collecting data with the express purpose of analysis.
The Survey Questionnaire Types
Preparing a questionnaire is not as simple as it seems. Questions must be carefully planned and are directly influenced by how further analysis will be conducted. Thus, even the conditions that respondents will answer the questions are thought of. Check out the types of questionnaires commonly used in academic research below:
1. Open-Ended Questionnaires
Open-ended questions are those that allow the respondent to formulate their answer. Thus, the question is accompanied by a free field where the interviewee can fill in with his written answer. In this way, it allows the interviewee freedom and offers an unlimited number of answers to the researcher.
This type of question is used mainly in qualitative research. An advantage of open-ended questions is that the interviewee is not influenced by pre-established answers to the questionnaire. On the other hand, despite the robust answers provided by the respondents, it excludes some set of people from the research sample as they do not reach interviewees who do not have writing skills.
2. Closed-Ended Questionnaires
Closed questions are those that have pre-established answers. In other words, different alternative responses are presented for the interviewee to choose. The ease of the answer (with a check in the box corresponding to the answer) is one of the advantages of this type of question. However, as a disadvantage, there is a restriction on the possibilities of response.
Regarding the number of response alternatives, they can be:
- Binary or dichotomous: Answers that present only two options, necessarily antagonistic to each other. Binary responses are considered, for example: Yes or No; Favorable or Contrary; True or False.
- Multiple choice: Answers that present three or more alternative options. The answers are not necessarily antagonistic. For this reason, the interviewee is asked to check only one or more than one option.
- Staggered: Answers with three or more options and organized on a scale. Thus, the first and the last are antagonistic, while the central option is neutral.
The Different Types of Questions in the Construction of the Questionnaire
The existence of these questionnaire categories does not mean, however, that a questionnaire needs to be composed of only one type of question. For example, binary and multiple-choice questions can appear in the same questionnaire. In the same way, it is possible to insert questions open to questionnaires where most questions are closed. The researcher must, in these cases, point out basic instructions for filling in either at the beginning or throughout the questionnaire.
Another interesting detail is the dependent questions. Those are those questions that depend on the answer to the previous question.
Tips for Preparing a Questionnaire
But it is not because of the disadvantages that a questionnaire is no longer interesting as a data collection tool.
There are even ways to remedy some of them. For example, it is recommended to send a letter of instructions with the questionnaire. Thus, the nature of the research, its importance, the need to get answers, and how the questionnaire should be completed are explained. This presentation helps to arouse the interest of those who participated, making them complete and return the questionnaire within a reasonable time.
Finally, a summary of the main precautions that a questionnaire should take:
- The questions formulated in a clear and precise manner.
- It is a single idea per question.
- Questions should allow for a single interpretation.
- Questions should not suggest or indicate correct answers; and
- The interviewee’s degree of knowledge and information is considered.
We hope to have answered your questions about the types of questionnaire. And also, the construction of questions for this type of data collection instrument.