Market Research Tutorial: Writing an Effective Market Research Questionnaire

Writing an effective market research questionnaire is much more challenging than commonly thought. That said, the market research tutorial offers a few simple rules makes the job much easier.

With the explosion of do-it-yourself online surveying, either through professional services or through pop-ups on a website, we find ourselves cringing when we read the questionnaires servedup there. As the old saying goes, everyone has at least one book to write inside them and these days that book is emerging as a market research survey. And, need we add, that book is often dreadfully written.

So herein offered is a set of guidelines to help you either write a viable and effective questionnaire, or to evaluate one you have had written for you:

1) Use the golden rule. Your questionnaire should be crisp and to-the-point. If you wouldn't respond to it, how can you expect anyone else to either?

2) keep it short. Yes, solicit the information you need, but no more. The longer a survey is the most fatigued and antsy yourrespondents become. This simply increases the likelihood that they will say or click any response just to finish, rather thangiving it the accurate response you want.

3) Never ask two questions at once. This is perhaps the most common error in questionnaires. "Please rate our customer service representatives on being knowledgeable and professional." Unless you have definitely determined in prior research that knowledgeableness and professionalism mean the same thing to your population, you have just asked a useless question. When you've collected the data and analyzed the results you can only say that XX% of your customer base says your reps are knowledgeable and professional. But which is it? Knowledgeable or professional? Or truly both? Back to Rule #1. Let's say the respondent perceives that your reps are quite knowledgeable (they have the product specs, they can answer detailed questions, etc.), but at the same time your reps are rude and quite obviously are trying to get off the phone as quickly as possible (e.g., not being professional). How is your respondent supposed to answer this question? What answer or rating would they give if reps are knowledgeable, but not professional? So just stay out of this trap altogether. If both knowledgeableness and professionalism of reps are key service attributes, ask respondents to rate each attribute individually.

4) Don't ask questions where the respondent has to figure out what question he/she is really answering. The proverbial "Have you stopped beating your wife?" If the respondent does not understand the question, he/she cannot give you an accurate answer.

5) Likewise, do not ask questions worded in the negative: "Don't you think that the U.S. should get out of Iraq?" If therespondent says "yes", what does that really mean? He/she doesn't think the U.S. should get out of Iraq? Be clear. Period.

6) Write in plain, everyday spoken English (or the language of your population). Questionnaires are written and reviewed priorto execution. What may be grammatically-incorrect in written form may sound clear and natural when spoken. ("Has everyone washed his hands" (grammatically correct, yet confusing) compared to "Has everyone washed their hands?" (grammatically-incorrect, yet clear).The test here is to read your questionnaire out loud to yourself and then test it with several other people before administering it to respondents. (And, as we will discuss later, you should always test the questionnaire with respondents as well.

Ready to write? Good. Now on to some samples of market research questionnaires.

Forward to Samples of Market Research Questionnaires

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