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Questionnaire Construction

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Questionnaire Construction

Chances are you have filled out a questionnaire at least once in your life. But have you ever created one yourself? Do you know the steps involved in questionnaire construction? Well, let us not make a questionnaire out of this introduction and get to the answers faster.In this article, we will explore the various principles involved in the construction of questionnaires in research methodology and back them up with examples. But first, why use questionnaires in the first place?

Researchers often use questionnaires when researching because they are relatively inexpensive, it is easy to recruit and analyse many responses and their data. Typically, researchers use questionnaires that other researchers previously created and have proven reliable and valid measurement tools. If no questionnaire is available to measure the variables under study, researchers must develop their own reliable and valid questionnaire.

What are the various steps involved in questionnaire construction?

When researchers construct questionnaires, they must ensure reliability and validity. There are several steps researchers must take to confirm this. Once the researchers make the questionnaire, they check its reliability and validity before using it in research. There are several things researchers should consider when creating questionnaires.

‘Open-ended’ and ‘close-ended’ questions

Whether the researcher uses open-ended or close-ended questions affects whether the research obtains qualitative or quantitative data. The researcher must decide this in advance, as it will affect the data they will get and what forms of analysis they can use later.

When the researcher wants to understand the respondents’ thoughts or behaviours, they use open-ended questions and closed-ended questions in cases where this is not necessary. Thus, a close-ended question is a predetermined answer, such as yes or no. An open-ended question is much more detailed or allows for more self-expression.

Some questionnaires contain a mixture of both types of questions.

Questionnaire Construction Question example StudySmarterExample of ‘open’ and ‘close-ended’ questions in a questionnaire, StudySmarter Originals

Type of response

In open-ended questions, respondents’ answers are not fixed. This is not the case with close-ended questions. There are several forms of scales that researchers can use for close-ended questions:

  • Fixed response, i.e., ‘yes’ or ‘no.
  • Likert scale the researcher creates responses, and respondents must indicate which one applies to them, e.g., ‘On a scale of 1-5, how happy do you feel today?’

The questions asked must not be leading questions. Otherwise, it is more likely that the results are due to the effects of the researcher and not the respondents’ true thoughts.

Order of questions

The order of questions in the questionnaire must make sense so that respondents are not confused. This can lead to invalid results.

Questions and analysis

When formulating the questions, the researcher must keep in mind the type of analysis they want to perform.

Strengths and weaknesses of close-ended questions

Close-ended questions have a good side and a bad side. Let us explore them.

Strengths of close-ended questions

The use of closed-ended questions allows for economical data collection (large quantities can be collected at a low cost) and can be easily converted into quantitative data. The questions are also standardised, which increases reliability (they can be easily repeated).

Weaknesses of close-ended questions

Unlike open-ended questions, you can not get more information with close-ended questions. There is no real depth or detail that reflects a participant’s answer.

Strengths and weaknesses of open-ended questions

Now let us examine the strengths and weaknesses of open-ended questions.

Strengths of open-ended questions

These questions are much more detailed and allow for qualitative data collection that provides insight into the true thoughts and feelings of the participants.

Weaknesses of open-ended questions

They are very time-consuming, both in collecting the data and analysing it. Researchers cannot enter them into a coded analysis programme. Instead, researchers must pick out common themes and analyse the responses in depth.

What are the principles of questionnaire construction in research methodology?

Before researchers create a questionnaire, they must test it, which they usually do with a pilot study. Testing aims to ensure that the questionnaire design is reliable and valid. Ideally, the questions should be straightforward and avoid bias.

Pilot study

Before conducting a study, researchers tend to replicate the procedure they will use in their research. They usually do it on a small scale, meaning with fewer participants. The purpose of pilot studies is to identify weaknesses and improve the study. When they create new materials such as questionnaires, they test them before using them in the research to ensure that the measurements are reliable and valid. This procedure can be done through pilot studies.

Reliability

In terms of reliability, researchers want to ensure that questionnaires have high internal reliability.

Internal reliability means that all questions in the questionnaire should consistently measure the same thing (no irrelevant questions).

Test-retest reliability is also tested before using a questionnaire. The same participants complete the same questionnaire but on different days to do this. If a high correlation exists between the test scores measured on different days, the researchers can assume that the constructed questionnaire has a high test-retest reliability.

Validity

There are several types of validity, one of which is constructed validity. The questionnaire measures the variables stated in the hypothesis and if the scores measured reflect the hypothesis. Researchers must also ensure that the questions cover all the variables under study. If this is the case, the experiment has high validity.

Validity means that the questionnaire measures the intended variables the researcher wants to measure.

A common way to study the validity of a questionnaire is to distribute a questionnaire to two groups:

  • One group consists of experts.
  • The other has limited knowledge about the phenomenon under investigation.

If the two groups arrive at similar results, the questionnaire is easy to understand, and the questions do not allow for interpretation. Therefore, the questionnaire has high validity.

Another way to measure the validity of a questionnaire is to check whether it has concurrent validity. This check is done by inspecting whether the results of the new questionnaire match those of a previously created questionnaire that measures a similar concept, which has high reliability and validity.

Questionnaire Construction Levels of validity scale StudySmarterLevels of validity scale, Katarina Gadže, StudySmarter Originals

Overall, questionnaires are an inexpensive and quick way to collect data for analysis, and they can be anonymous.

It becomes problematic when the questions are not carefully constructed so that large data sets do not truly reflect the research and the questions can be misunderstood. When sending out questionnaires, it also takes time for participants to receive them (if they are sent out instead of participants being present), and then it also takes time to return the questions.

Ultimately, questionnaires should avoid influencing or suggesting the correct answers (to avoid participants making the socially desirable choice).

Questionnaire Construction - Key takeaways

  • Typically, researchers use questionnaires that have been previously created by other researchers and have proven to be reliable and valid measurement tools.
    • If there is no questionnaire to measure the variable under study, researchers must construct their own reliable and valid questionnaire.
  • When constructing a questionnaire, researchers must consider several things, such as the type of questions used, the order of the questions, and the analysis method used later in the study.
  • Before a new questionnaire is used, it must be tested, which is usually done by conducting pilot studies.
  • A questionnaire must be reliable and valid to be used in research.

Frequently Asked Questions about Questionnaire Construction

The process of constructing a survey questionnaire is:


  1. Form a research question and hypothesis (identify and operationalise the variables for testing the hypothesis).
  2. Determine the type of questions that will best measure the variables, e.g., open, closed, or mixed.
  3. Test the hypotheses reliability and validity.

We identify the construct validity by determining whether a questionnaire measures the intended variables. We typically assess this by identifying any high levels of validity such as face validity, concurrent validity, criterion validity, etc. 

An example of a mixed questions questionnaire is:


1) What is your sex (with the predefined options: male, female, prefer not to answer)?

2) How did the video that you just watched make you feel (open-ended question)?  

The process of constructing a survey questionnaire is:


  1. Form a research question and hypothesis (identify and operationalise the variables for testing the hypothesis).
  2. Determine the type of questions that will best measure the variables, e.g., open, closed, or mixed.
  3. Test the hypotheses reliability and validity.
  4. Conduct the experiment: ask participants to complete the questionnaire. 
  5. Analyse the data.

There are several forms of questionnaires, such as:


  • Online questionnaires.
  • Telephone questionnaires.
  • Open question questionnaires. 
  • Closed question questionnaires. 
  • Mixed questions questionnaires.

Final Questionnaire Construction Quiz

Question

What must researchers ensure for questionnaires?

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Answer

Reliability.

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Question

What must researchers consider when forming questions for questionnaires?

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Answer

  • Type of question asked.
  • Type of responses available.
  • Order of questions.
  • Type of analysis for later use.

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Question

Why is the order of questions important?

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Answer

The order of the questions in the questionnaire needs to make sense so that the respondents don't get confused, which can lead to invalid results.

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Question

What is a Likert scale? 

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Answer

The researcher creates responses, and respondents must indicate which one applies to them, e.g., ‘On a scale of 1-5, how happy do you feel today?’

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Question

Why do researchers construct questionnaires?

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Answer

Typically, researchers use questionnaires other researchers previously constructed and proved to be reliable and valid measures.

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Question

What is the purpose of a pilot study?

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Answer

The purpose of pilot studies is to identify flaws and potential ways to improve the study.

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Question

Before using newly constructed questionnaires in research, what do we need to do?

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Answer

We need to test them for reliability and validity. 

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Question

How can the utility of newly constructed questionnaires be tested?

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Answer

Through pilot studies.

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Question

How can we measure test-retest reliability for newly constructed questionnaires? 

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Answer

Ask the same participants to complete the same questionnaire but on different days.

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Question

What does this mean if we find low correlation when measuring test-retest reliability?

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Answer

Low reliability and other factors are influencing the results.

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Question

In terms of reliability, what do questionnaires need to fulfil?

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Answer

In terms of reliability, researchers want to make sure questionnaires are high in internal reliability, i.e., all the questions in the questionnaire should consistently measure the same thing (no irrelevant questions).

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Question

What is validity?

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Answer

Validity means that the questionnaire measures the intended variables that the researcher wants to measure.

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Question

What is construct validity?

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Answer

Construct validity is when the questionnaire measures variables identified in the hypothesis, and the scores measured reflect the hypothesis.

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Question

How do researchers ensure the constructed questionnaire is high in face validity?

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Answer

Researchers must also ensure the questions cover all the variables under investigation. If this is the case, the experiment is high in face validity.

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Question

What is a common method to identify if a questionnaire is high in validity?

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Answer

A common way to study the validity of a questionnaire is to distribute a questionnaire to two groups:

  • One group consists of experts.
  • The other has limited knowledge about the phenomenon under investigation.

If the two groups arrive at similar results, the questionnaire is easy to understand, and the questions do not allow for interpretation. Therefore, the questionnaire has high validity.

Show question

Question

How can researchers test concurrent validity?

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Answer

They test concurrent validity by checking if the new questionnaire results are similar to one that has been previously created that is measuring a similar concept high in reliability and validity.  

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