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Questionnaire Design | Methods, Question Types & Examples

Published on July 15, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on January 9, 2023.

A questionnaire is a list of questions or items used to gather data from respondents about their attitudes, experiences, or opinions. Questionnaires can be used to collect quantitative and/or qualitative information.

Questionnaires are commonly used in market research as well as in the social and health sciences. For example, a company may ask for feedback about a recent customer service experience, or psychology researchers may investigate health risk perceptions using questionnaires.

Table of contents

Questionnaires vs. surveys, questionnaire methods, open-ended vs. closed-ended questions, question wording, question order, step-by-step guide to design, frequently asked questions about questionnaire design.

A survey is a research method where you collect and analyze data from a group of people. A questionnaire is a specific tool or instrument for collecting the data.

Designing a questionnaire means creating valid and reliable questions that address your research objectives , placing them in a useful order, and selecting an appropriate method for administration.

But designing a questionnaire is only one component of survey research. Survey research also involves defining the population you’re interested in, choosing an appropriate sampling method , administering questionnaires, data cleansing and analysis, and interpretation.

Sampling is important in survey research because you’ll often aim to generalize your results to the population. Gather data from a sample that represents the range of views in the population for externally valid results. There will always be some differences between the population and the sample, but minimizing these will help you avoid several types of research bias , including sampling bias , ascertainment bias , and undercoverage bias .

Questionnaires can be self-administered or researcher-administered . Self-administered questionnaires are more common because they are easy to implement and inexpensive, but researcher-administered questionnaires allow deeper insights.

Self-administered questionnaires

Self-administered questionnaires can be delivered online or in paper-and-pen formats, in person or through mail. All questions are standardized so that all respondents receive the same questions with identical wording.

Self-administered questionnaires can be:

But they may also be:

Researcher-administered questionnaires

Researcher-administered questionnaires are interviews that take place by phone, in-person, or online between researchers and respondents.

Researcher-administered questionnaires can:

But researcher-administered questionnaires can be limiting in terms of resources. They are:

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Your questionnaire can include open-ended or closed-ended questions or a combination of both.

Using closed-ended questions limits your responses, while open-ended questions enable a broad range of answers. You’ll need to balance these considerations with your available time and resources.

Closed-ended questions

Closed-ended, or restricted-choice, questions offer respondents a fixed set of choices to select from. Closed-ended questions are best for collecting data on categorical or quantitative variables.

Categorical variables can be nominal or ordinal. Quantitative variables can be interval or ratio. Understanding the type of variable and level of measurement means you can perform appropriate statistical analyses for generalizable results.

Examples of closed-ended questions for different variables

Nominal variables include categories that can’t be ranked, such as race or ethnicity. This includes binary or dichotomous categories.

It’s best to include categories that cover all possible answers and are mutually exclusive. There should be no overlap between response items.

In binary or dichotomous questions, you’ll give respondents only two options to choose from.

White Black or African American American Indian or Alaska Native Asian Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

Ordinal variables include categories that can be ranked. Consider how wide or narrow a range you’ll include in your response items, and their relevance to your respondents.

Likert scale questions collect ordinal data using rating scales with 5 or 7 points.

When you have four or more Likert-type questions, you can treat the composite data as quantitative data on an interval scale . Intelligence tests, psychological scales, and personality inventories use multiple Likert-type questions to collect interval data.

With interval or ratio scales , you can apply strong statistical hypothesis tests to address your research aims.

Pros and cons of closed-ended questions

Well-designed closed-ended questions are easy to understand and can be answered quickly. However, you might still miss important answers that are relevant to respondents. An incomplete set of response items may force some respondents to pick the closest alternative to their true answer. These types of questions may also miss out on valuable detail.

To solve these problems, you can make questions partially closed-ended, and include an open-ended option where respondents can fill in their own answer.

Open-ended questions

Open-ended, or long-form, questions allow respondents to give answers in their own words. Because there are no restrictions on their choices, respondents can answer in ways that researchers may not have otherwise considered. For example, respondents may want to answer “multiracial” for the question on race rather than selecting from a restricted list.

Open-ended questions have a few downsides.

They require more time and effort from respondents, which may deter them from completing the questionnaire.

For researchers, understanding and summarizing responses to these questions can take a lot of time and resources. You’ll need to develop a systematic coding scheme to categorize answers, and you may also need to involve other researchers in data analysis for high reliability .

Question wording can influence your respondents’ answers, especially if the language is unclear, ambiguous, or biased. Good questions need to be understood by all respondents in the same way ( reliable ) and measure exactly what you’re interested in ( valid ).

Use clear language

You should design questions with your target audience in mind. Consider their familiarity with your questionnaire topics and language and tailor your questions to them.

For readability and clarity, avoid jargon or overly complex language. Don’t use double negatives because they can be harder to understand.

Use balanced framing

Respondents often answer in different ways depending on the question framing. Positive frames are interpreted as more neutral than negative frames and may encourage more socially desirable answers.

Use a mix of both positive and negative frames to avoid research bias , and ensure that your question wording is balanced wherever possible.

Unbalanced questions focus on only one side of an argument. Respondents may be less likely to oppose the question if it is framed in a particular direction. It’s best practice to provide a counter argument within the question as well.

Avoid leading questions

Leading questions guide respondents towards answering in specific ways, even if that’s not how they truly feel, by explicitly or implicitly providing them with extra information.

It’s best to keep your questions short and specific to your topic of interest.

Keep your questions focused

Ask about only one idea at a time and avoid double-barreled questions. Double-barreled questions ask about more than one item at a time, which can confuse respondents.

This question could be difficult to answer for respondents who feel strongly about the right to clean drinking water but not high-speed internet. They might only answer about the topic they feel passionate about or provide a neutral answer instead – but neither of these options capture their true answers.

Instead, you should ask two separate questions to gauge respondents’ opinions.

Strongly Agree Agree Undecided Disagree Strongly Disagree

Do you agree or disagree that the government should be responsible for providing high-speed internet to everyone?

You can organize the questions logically, with a clear progression from simple to complex. Alternatively, you can randomize the question order between respondents.

Logical flow

Using a logical flow to your question order means starting with simple questions, such as behavioral or opinion questions, and ending with more complex, sensitive, or controversial questions.

The question order that you use can significantly affect the responses by priming them in specific directions. Question order effects, or context effects, occur when earlier questions influence the responses to later questions, reducing the validity of your questionnaire.

While demographic questions are usually unaffected by order effects, questions about opinions and attitudes are more susceptible to them.

It’s important to minimize order effects because they can be a source of systematic error or bias in your study.


Randomization involves presenting individual respondents with the same questionnaire but with different question orders.

When you use randomization, order effects will be minimized in your dataset. But a randomized order may also make it harder for respondents to process your questionnaire. Some questions may need more cognitive effort, while others are easier to answer, so a random order could require more time or mental capacity for respondents to switch between questions.

Step 1: Define your goals and objectives

The first step of designing a questionnaire is determining your aims.

Once you’ve specified your research aims, you can operationalize your variables of interest into questionnaire items. Operationalizing concepts means turning them from abstract ideas into concrete measurements. Every question needs to address a defined need and have a clear purpose.

Step 2: Use questions that are suitable for your sample

Create appropriate questions by taking the perspective of your respondents. Consider their language proficiency and available time and energy when designing your questionnaire.

Consider all possible options for responses to closed-ended questions. From a respondent’s perspective, a lack of response options reflecting their point of view or true answer may make them feel alienated or excluded. In turn, they’ll become disengaged or inattentive to the rest of the questionnaire.

Step 3: Decide on your questionnaire length and question order

Once you have your questions, make sure that the length and order of your questions are appropriate for your sample.

If respondents are not being incentivized or compensated, keep your questionnaire short and easy to answer. Otherwise, your sample may be biased with only highly motivated respondents completing the questionnaire.

Decide on your question order based on your aims and resources. Use a logical flow if your respondents have limited time or if you cannot randomize questions. Randomizing questions helps you avoid bias, but it can take more complex statistical analysis to interpret your data.

Step 4: Pretest your questionnaire

When you have a complete list of questions, you’ll need to pretest it to make sure what you’re asking is always clear and unambiguous. Pretesting helps you catch any errors or points of confusion before performing your study.

Ask friends, classmates, or members of your target audience to complete your questionnaire using the same method you’ll use for your research. Find out if any questions were particularly difficult to answer or if the directions were unclear or inconsistent, and make changes as necessary.

If you have the resources, running a pilot study will help you test the validity and reliability of your questionnaire. A pilot study is a practice run of the full study, and it includes sampling, data collection , and analysis. You can find out whether your procedures are unfeasible or susceptible to bias and make changes in time, but you can’t test a hypothesis with this type of study because it’s usually statistically underpowered .

A questionnaire is a data collection tool or instrument, while a survey is an overarching research method that involves collecting and analyzing data from people using questionnaires.

Closed-ended, or restricted-choice, questions offer respondents a fixed set of choices to select from. These questions are easier to answer quickly.

Open-ended or long-form questions allow respondents to answer in their own words. Because there are no restrictions on their choices, respondents can answer in ways that researchers may not have otherwise considered.

A Likert scale is a rating scale that quantitatively assesses opinions, attitudes, or behaviors. It is made up of 4 or more questions that measure a single attitude or trait when response scores are combined.

To use a Likert scale in a survey , you present participants with Likert-type questions or statements, and a continuum of items, usually with 5 or 7 possible responses, to capture their degree of agreement.

You can organize the questions logically, with a clear progression from simple to complex, or randomly between respondents. A logical flow helps respondents process the questionnaire easier and quicker, but it may lead to bias. Randomization can minimize the bias from order effects.

Questionnaires can be self-administered or researcher-administered.

Researcher-administered questionnaires are interviews that take place by phone, in-person, or online between researchers and respondents. You can gain deeper insights by clarifying questions for respondents or asking follow-up questions.

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How to Develop a Questionnaire for Research

Last Updated: December 4, 2022 References Approved

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 24 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 41 testimonials and 92% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 559,196 times. Learn more...

A questionnaire is a technique for collecting data in which a respondent provides answers to a series of questions. [1] X Research source To develop a questionnaire that will collect the data you want takes effort and time. However, by taking a step-by-step approach to questionnaire development, you can come up with an effective means to collect data that will answer your unique research question.

Designing Your Questionnaire

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Writing your questionnaire

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Distributing Your Questionnaire

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To develop a questionnaire for research, identify the main objective of your research to act as the focal point for the questionnaire. Then, choose the type of questions that you want to include, and come up with succinct, straightforward questions to gather the information that you need to answer your questions. Keep your questionnaire as short as possible, and identify a target demographic who you would like to answer the questions. Remember to make the questionnaires as anonymous as possible to protect the integrity of the person answering the questions! For tips on writing out your questions and distributing the questionnaire, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Harvard University Program on Survey Research

This PSR Tip Sheet provides some basic tips about how to write good survey questions and design a good survey questionnaire.

PSR Resources

Statistics simplified

The main purpose of any research questionnaire should be to help the researcher in extracting maximum data with the help of minimum questions from the respondents. The questionnaire thus acts as a standard guide for the interviewers who need to ask the questions in same way, as without this standardization the process can get haphazard. Questionnaires are a very important part of data collection methodology which ultimately facilitate the analysis. 1

According to many scholars, there are five people who should be considered i.e. Client, Researcher. Interviewer, Respondent and the data processor while designing a questionnaire. A questionnaire only fails when it is designed with insufficient thought. Common problems that are observed in a failed survey include; missed out questions, badly constructed questionnaire, or too long or too complicated questions. 1,2

Steps which are involved in designing a questionnaire include: 3

The survey plan for any research study will have a range of objectives and thus can require qualitative or quantitative methods or both. The questionnaire can thus be divided into three types as per the requirements of the research study: 4

Questions are designed basically to collect three different types of information from target population these include behavioral information, attitudinal information and classification information. Each of these information types have been defined below: 5,6

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My thesis – “An assessment of the effectiveness of tactile communication on interactive process of congenitally deafblind in —” Questions on methods, materials and equipment, challenges and intervention. descriptive survey design. I need your advice on preparation of a questionnaire please. With regards.

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Dissertation surveys: Questions, examples, and best practices

Collect data for your dissertation with little effort and great results.

Dissertation surveys are one of the most powerful tools to get valuable insights and data for the culmination of your research. However, it’s one of the most stressful and time-consuming tasks you need to do. You want useful data from a representative sample that you can analyze and present as part of your dissertation. At SurveyPlanet, we’re committed to making it as easy and stress-free as possible to get the most out of your study.

With an intuitive and user-friendly design, our templates and premade questions can be your allies while creating a survey for your dissertation. Explore all the options we offer by simply signing up for an account—and leave the stress behind.

How to write dissertation survey questions

The first thing to do is to figure out which group of people is relevant for your study. When you know that, you’ll also be able to adjust the survey and write questions that will get the best results.

The next step is to write down the goal of your research and define it properly. Online surveys are one of the best and most inexpensive ways to reach respondents and achieve your goal.

Before writing any questions, think about how you’ll analyze the results. You don’t want to write and distribute a survey without keeping how to report your findings in mind. When your thesis questionnaire is out in the real world, it’s too late to conclude that the data you’re collecting might not be any good for assessment. Because of that, you need to create questions with analysis in mind.

You may find our five survey analysis tips for better insights helpful. We recommend reading it before analyzing your results.

Once you understand the parameters of your representative sample, goals, and analysis methodology, then it’s time to think about distribution. Survey distribution may feel like a headache, but you’ll find that many people will gladly participate.

Find communities where your targeted group hangs out and share the link to your survey with them. If you’re not sure how large your research sample should be, gauge it easily with the survey sample size calculator.

Need help with writing survey questions? Read our guide on well-written examples of good survey questions .

Dissertation survey examples

Whatever field you’re studying, we’re sure the following questions will prove useful when crafting your own.

At the beginning of every questionnaire, inform respondents of your topic and provide a consent form. After that, start with questions like:

Dissertation survey best practices

There are a lot of DOs and DON’Ts you should keep in mind when conducting any survey, especially for your dissertation. To get valuable data from your targeted sample, follow these best practices:

Use the consent form.

The consent form is a must when distributing a research questionnaire. A respondent has to know how you’ll use their answers and that the survey is anonymous.

Avoid leading and double-barreled questions

Leading and double-barreled questions will produce inconclusive results—and you don’t want that. A question such as: “Do you like to watch TV and play video games?” is double-barreled because it has two variables.

On the other hand, leading questions such as “On a scale from 1-10 how would you rate the amazing experience with our customer support?” influence respondents to answer in a certain way, which produces biased results.

Use easy and straightforward language and questions

Don’t use terms and professional jargon that respondents won’t understand. Take into consideration their educational level and demographic traits and use easy-to-understand language when writing questions.

Mix close-ended and open-ended questions

Too many open-ended questions will annoy respondents. Also, analyzing the responses is harder. Use more close-ended questions for the best results and only a few open-ended ones.

Strategically use different types of responses

Likert scale, multiple-choice, and ranking are all types of responses you can use to collect data. But some response types suit some questions better. Make sure to strategically fit questions with response types.

Ensure that data privacy is a priority

Make sure to use an online survey tool that has SSL encryption and secure data processing. You don’t want to risk all your hard work going to waste because of poorly managed data security. Ensure that you only collect data that’s relevant to your dissertation survey and leave out any questions (such as name) that can identify the respondents.

Create dissertation questionnaires with SurveyPlanet

Overall, survey methodology is a great way to find research participants for your research study. You have all the tools required for creating a survey for a dissertation with SurveyPlanet—you only need to sign up . With powerful features like question branching, custom formatting, multiple languages, image choice questions, and easy export you will find everything needed to create, distribute, and analyze a dissertation survey.

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