Questionnaires have been in use for quite a long time now. According to studies, they have been in use since the 19th century. They were made for data and information-gathering purposes.

There are many options available for gathering information for research purposes. A questionnaire is one of those methods used for data gathering.

According to historians and researchers, the first questionnaire was developed in London in 1838.

What is a Questionnaire?

In simple terms, a questionnaire is an instrument that is used in the process of collecting data and information. We ask a certain set of questions related to some specific topic from respondents or participants. These questions could be either oral or written.

Questionnaires are used for research and survey purposes. They are also used for gathering information about a certain product or service.

The positive aspect of questionnaires is that they provide both qualitative and quantitative data. For this purpose, they are designed in different formats to get the desired results.

Types of Questionnaires

Types of questions in a questionnaire define the nature of it. They are designed according to the type of information you want to collect through those questions. Different types of questionnaires are as follows.

 Structured Questionnaires:

Structured questionnaires are the type of questionnaires in which the researcher will get results in quantitative form. Usually, there are a great number of respondents in this kind of data-gathering technique. They are designed to collect immediate and precise answers from the respondent. These types of questions help to reduce the researcher’s efforts by providing straight answers. They usually use words like ‘good’, ‘very good’, ‘bad’, ‘very bad’, etc to gather respondents’ answers.

Some characteristic features of structured questionnaires are given below.

  • Explicit and real-time questions.
  • Helps to check the validity of formerly collected data.
  • Mostly used in surveys related to social and economic setups.
  • Structured questions can be further divided into two subtypes.

Contingency Questions:

Contingency questions are a type of structured question in which the respondent can answer the next question only if he has given an answer to the previous question. This means the upcoming question is the requisite of the previous one.

Matrix Questions:

It is a type of multiple-choice question shown in the form of a grid in rows and columns. In most cases, rows are comprised of the questions to be asked while the columns consist of predefined choices according to the questions in the row. Mostly the choices are given in the form of a scale.

Unstructured Questionnaires:

In this type of questionnaire, the researcher will get data in qualitative form. They are usually comprised of open-ended questions. In this way, there will be more data gathered as compared to structured types of questionnaires. This happens because respondents are given a choice to express their thoughts and feelings about a particular subject. However, this creates a problem for the researcher as they have to handle a huge amount of data with no specific answers.

Some properties of unstructured questionnaires are listed below.

  • They are usually used in interviews.
  • Less planning and time required to design as compared to structured ones.
  • They are more flexible as they can be implemented in many situations.
  • In most cases, this type of questionnaire is used to collect personal data like family, beliefs, or ideas of people.

 Scaled Questionnaires:

In this type, the respondents are required to give answers according to a particular scale. The answers in the scale are listed in an incremental manner so that the respondents can give answers according to the intensity they feel towards a particular product or service.

We can further divide the type of questionnaires according to the format. The format is basically divided into two types.

Open-Ended Format:

The type of format of a questionnaire that allows the respondents to answer freely and express their thoughts and ideas without any restriction is known as an open-ended format. In this format, the participants are not required to answer questions. Instead, they can express their personal beliefs and ideas about a particular subject in this type of questionnaire format.

An open-ended format is also helpful as it provides not only the feedback of respondents but their suggestions as well which can be useful for further improvements.

Closed-Ended Format

Multiple choice questions are an example of a closed-ended format. The participants are not allowed to express their opinions rather they are restricted to choosing from the already given options by the researcher. The benefit of using this type of format is that the data gathered through this format is easy to handle, record, and analyze.

Questionnaires Distributed by Hand:

They are another important type of questionnaire. They are actually distributed by the researcher to the participants. The benefit is that researchers can get the questionnaires filled in front of them.

 Some key points regarding this method are:

  • The researcher develops a close relationship with the respondent.
  • In case of ambiguous questions, the researcher is present on the spot to provide help and explanation.
  • The main cause of the research study is explained to the respondents so that they get a better idea and will respond accordingly.
  • However, we should not deny the fact that this method is time-consuming as well as expensive.

Advantages of Questionnaires:

  1. Questionnaires are a very inexpensive way of collecting data and information about a particular topic. If they are handled properly, they can give useful information without spending extra time and money.
  2. Questionnaires can be made in different formats and types in order to collect different types of data related to different fields of life. Some common methods are written, postal, telephonic, hand-delivered, pictorial, etc.
  3. A single question in a questionnaire is able to get information from many numbers of respondents at the same time.
  4. Respondents with variable age, sex, education, occupation, etc can also be catered to through the same questionnaire.
  5. Responses we get from questionnaires can vary from specific to elaborate depending on the format and type of questionnaire.
  6. The final results we get from this data collection tool can be used as statistical surveys.
  7. Questionnaires once made with properly structured questions can be easily used in future studies as well.
  8. Results from the data collection can be used as a benchmark or comparison tool for future projects.   
  9. Questionnaires are in written form; therefore, the respondent gets more time to respond. In this way, far better responses can be recorded as compared to face to face method of data collection.
  10. The implementation of this method is very easy and time-saving.
  11. Questionnaires are not fixed for some specific field or area of study. They can be used in varying fields of study and professions.
  12. The available formats are designed and structured in a way to cater to common people so that data can be collected from the general public as well.
  13. Questionnaire is a part of the survey. They are administered as a tool for preliminary data collection collecting suggestions and feedback, etc.
  14. They are a simple and straight tool that collects answers in the most feasible form so that they can be further analyzed to get final results.
  15. You can increase the sample size and administer the same questionnaire to all the sample populations. In this way, more data will be collected and results can be manipulated more accurately.
  16. Anonymously filled questionnaires are another option to get more honest responses.
  17. Large number of the population can be surveyed in a short period of time and with very less cost.
  18. Questionnaires are a tool to get bias-free information and data because the same number of questions with the same options are asked of the respondents.
  19. Open-ended questions allow people to express their feelings freely. In this way, the researcher can get more accurate and detailed data.

Disadvantages of Questionnaires:

  1. The analyses we get from data collected through questionnaires can become biased or wrong if the questions or options provided to respondents are not structured or designed properly.
  2. The researcher or the analyst can face difficulties in the data manipulation process if the questionnaire is poorly structured because it will produce inaccurate information.
  3. Sometimes, the wrong wording can lead the respondents to believe that they are unable to fill these pieces of paper. The participants of the survey become unable to understand the topic or purpose of the study. Therefore, they simply deny top take part in the process or give improper information.
  4. Sometimes the questionnaires are very lengthy and hence, people do not get time to fill them. Therefore, the response rate reduces immensely.
  5. Closed-ended questionnaires restrict people from articulating their own opinions. They have to choose answers from a given set of options. Thus the researcher cannot get information about the actual opinion or idea of the respondent.
  6. Open-ended questions take time to get the questionnaire filled out properly. Moreover, the data collected through this tool becomes lengthy and difficult to analyze.
  7. Sometimes respondents give shallow information due to lack of time or interest. This data is not only incomplete but inaccurate as well which will lead to imprecise results.
  8. A questionnaire with too many questions will lead to wrong answers because the participants will not respond properly due to a lack of time and interest.
  9. If the purpose of the study is not defined properly, the respondents will not be able to provide essential data. Moreover, it is important and necessary to show the advantages of the particular study.
  10. If your questionnaire is not anonymous, there are chances that you will not be able to collect the desired information.
  11. An indistinct and unclear answer from the respondents is another major drawback of questionnaires.
  12. The opinions of people who are not highly educated or not able to read cannot be collected through questionnaires as most of them will not be able to fill them out properly.
  13. People sometimes do not respond to all the questions due to certain reasons. This leads to vague data collection that cannot be manipulated or cannot give results.
  14. Try to use simple language because it happens mostly that people do not understand the ambiguous or difficult words and skip questions.
  15. Unclear instructions can also create problems both for the respondents and the researchers.

Questionnaire vs. Survey

A research tool used for collecting data and information from a group of respondents in order to produce results is called a questionnaire. A set of questions are asked to collect the data by getting the responses.

Whereas a survey is a research method used to collect data from a particular set of people. This data gives an impending approach and information about topics from various fields of life and study.

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