Mistakes Common In Writing Your Own Survey Questionnaire

Two very significant things have happened over the past five years that are affecting the way smaller market research projects get done.

First, with companies constantly doing more with less, one of the departments most strained for human resources is the marketing department, and by association, the market research department -- so there is often an internal lack of expertise.

Also, new free survey websites, survey software or CRM applications give relative novices the capability to "do your own market research survey instantly." But, as so many learn the hard way, nothing in life is that easy.

As a market research supplier that works with clients with varying levels of expertise, what are some of the more common mistakes we see in the questionnaire development process?

  • Questionnaire language error � the error made when the researcher uses incorrect language (ambiguous, leading, assumptive, etc) in the survey instrument so that respondents are influenced in their answers. Language errors severely limit the validity and usefulness of those questions and can be the cause of misleading analysis and results.

  • Questionnaire structure errors � the error made when the structure and layout of the survey instrument leads to inaccurate responses. For example, designing a brand awareness/perception questionnaire so that brand related questions are asked before unaided recall questions are asked, which will significantly impact unaided recall results. Another example is asking probing questions regarding viewpoints on potentially negative experiences before asking an overall satisfaction question, where overall satisfaction would be incorrectly affected by the recent recall of potentially bad experience.

  • Questionnaire measurement/scale error � the error that occurs when improper measurement and scaling techniques are used in the survey instrument. The right type of measurement/scaling question to use will depend upon the information being collected and the analysis that will be performed. A common example of a measurement error is not controlling order bias, which occurs when a list is not randomly rotated for a given question and respondents exhibit a tendency to select the first few answers from a list.

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