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Construction of
Questionnaire
Lecture # 6
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Contents

1. What is questionnaire?

2. Framework for questions

3. Types of questionnaires

4. Guidelines
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What is questionnaire?

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What is questionnaire?

 A questionnaire is a research
instrument consisting of a series of
questions and other prompts for the
purpose of gathering information from
respondents.
 Although they are often designed for
statistical analysis of the responses,
this is not always the case.
 Remember, good questionnaires take
time to develop. They are not just
questions on a page.

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 Questionnaires are used in sample
surveys or censuses to elicit reports
of facts, attitudes, and other
subjective states.
 The developments are beginning to
transform survey questionnaire
construction from an art to a
science.
What is not questionnaire?

A questionnaire is not just a list of


questions.
It is tempting to begin questionnaire design
by drafting possible qns on the survey
topics.
That is obviously important, but not the right
place to start.
We must first think about the following
topics.
Objectives of questionnaire
construction?

 To maximize the proportion of


subjects answering our
questionnaire - that is, the response
rate.
 To obtain accurate relevant
information for our survey

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History

 In 1086 William the Conqueror


surveyed the wealth and
landholdings of England using a
standard set of inquiries and
compiled the results in the
“Domesday Book.”
 The questionnaire was invented by
Sir Francis Galton: 1874

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Advantages of Written
Questionnaires

 Questionnaires are very cost effective


when compared to face-to-face interviews.
This is especially true for studies involving
large sample sizes and large geographic
areas. Written questionnaires become
even more cost effective as the number of
research questions increases.
 Questionnaires are easy to analyze. Data
entry and tabulation for nearly all surveys
can be easily done with many computer
software packages.
 Questionnaires are familiar to most
people. Nearly everyone has had some
experience completing questionnaires and
they generally do not make people
apprehensive.
 Questionnaires reduce bias. There is
uniform question presentation and no
middle-man bias. The researcher's own
opinions will not influence the respondent
to answer questions in a certain manner.
There are no verbal or visual clues to
influence the respondent.

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 Questionnaires are less intrusive
than telephone or face-to-face
surveys. When a respondent
receives a questionnaire in the mail,
he is free to complete the
questionnaire on his own time-table.
Unlike other research methods, the
respondent is not interrupted by the
research instrument.

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Disadvantages Of Written
Questionnaires

 Possibility of low response rates:


Low response is the curse of
statistical analysis. It can
dramatically lower our confidence in
the results. Response rates vary
widely from one questionnaire to
another (10% - 90%), however,
well-designed studies consistently
produce high response rates.
 Inability to probe responses.
Questionnaires are structured
instruments. They allow little flexibility to
the respondent with respect to response
format. In essence, they often lose the
"flavor of the response" (i.e., respondents
often want to qualify their answers).
 By allowing frequent space for comments, the researcher can
partially overcome this disadvantage. Comments are among
the most helpful of all the information on the questionnaire,
and they usually provide insightful information that would
have otherwise been lost.

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 Nearly ninety percent of all communication
is visual. Gestures and other visual cues
are not available with written
questionnaires. The lack of personal
contact will have different effects
depending on the type of information being
requested. A questionnaire requesting
factual information will probably not be
affected by the lack of personal contact. A
questionnaire probing sensitive issues or
attitudes may be severely affected.
 When returned questionnaires arrive in the
mail, it's natural to assume that the
respondent is the same person you sent
the questionnaire to. This may not actually
be the case. Many times business
questionnaires get handed to other
employees for completion. Housewives
sometimes respond for their husbands.
Kids respond as a prank. For a variety of
reasons, the respondent may not be who
you think it is. It is a confounding error
inherent in questionnaires.
 Finally, questionnaires are simply
not suited for some people. For
example, a written survey to a
group of poorly educated people
might not work because of reading
skill problems. More frequently,
people are turned off by written
questionnaires because of misuse.

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Framework for
construction of
questionnaire

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Clarify goals

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Conversations with several of the
stakeholders

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Focus your goals

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Invite people to take survey

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Analyze responses

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Translating data into meaningful
information

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Present Results

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Celebrate your success

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Steps for Developing
Questionnaires
 Develop the Purpose

 Create the Conceptual Framework


 Write Questions
 Design the Questionnaire
Proper construction of the
questionnaire is essential to its
success

Powell, Ronald R.

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Framework: Questionnaire
Construction

Specify What
Information
Will be Sought

Identify
Correct
Respondent

Determine
Method of
Administration

Question Structure Question Wording Question Sequencing

PRETEST
and
Revise
Questionnaire
Steps to design a questionnaire:

1. Write out the primary and secondary aims


of your study.
2. Write out concepts/information to be
collected that relates to these aims.
3. Review the current literature to identify
already validated questionnaires that
measure your specific area of interest.
4. Compose a draft of your questionnaire.
5. Revise the draft.
6. Assemble the final questionnaire.

30
Questionnaire Design - General
Considerations

 Most problems with questionnaire analysis


can be traced back to the design phase of
the project. Well-defined goals are the
best way to assure a good questionnaire
design.
 When the goals of a study can be
expressed in a few clear and concise
sentences, the design of the questionnaire
becomes considerably easier.
 The questionnaire is developed to directly
address the goals of the study.

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 One of the best ways to clarify your
study goals is to decide how you
intend to use the information. Do
this before you begin designing the
study. This sounds obvious, but
many researchers neglect this task.
Why do research if the results will
not be used?

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 Be sure to commit the study goals to
writing. Whenever you are unsure of
a question, refer to the study goals
and a solution will become clear.
Ask only questions that directly
address the study goals. Avoid the
temptation to ask questions because
it would be "interesting to know".

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 As a general rule, with only a few
exceptions, long questionnaires get less
response than short questionnaires. Keep
your questionnaire short. In fact, the
shorter the better.
 Response rate is the single most important
indicator of how much confidence you can
place in the results. A low response rate can
be devastating to a study.
 One of the most effective methods of
maximizing response is to shorten the
questionnaire.

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 If your survey is over a few pages, try to
eliminate questions.
 Many people have difficulty knowing which
questions could be eliminated.
 For the elimination round, read each
question and ask, "How am I going to use
this information?" If the information will
be used in a decision-making process, then
keep the question... it's important. If not,
throw it out.

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 One important way to assure a successful
survey is to include other experts and
relevant decision-makers in the
questionnaire design process.
 Their suggestions will improve the
questionnaire and they will subsequently
have more confidence in the results.

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 Formulate a plan for doing the statistical
analysis during the design stage of the
project. Know how every question will be
analyzed and be prepared to handle
missing data. If you cannot specify how
you intend to analyze a question or use
the information, do not use it in the
survey.

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 Give your questionnaire a title that is short and
meaningful to the respondent. A questionnaire
with a title is generally perceived to be more
credible than one without
 Include clear and concise instructions on how
to complete the questionnaire. These must be
very easy to understand, so use short
sentences and basic vocabulary. Be sure to
print the return address on the questionnaire
itself (since questionnaires often get separated
from the reply envelopes).

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 Begin with a few non-threatening and
interesting items. If the first items are
too threatening or "boring", there is
little chance that the person will
complete the questionnaire.
 People generally look at the first few
questions before deciding whether or
not to complete the questionnaire. Make
them want to continue by putting
interesting questions first.

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 Use simple and direct language. The questions
must be clearly understood by the respondent.
 The wording of a question should be simple and
to the point.
 Do not use uncommon words or long sentences.
Make items as brief as possible. This will reduce
misunderstandings and make the questionnaire
appear easier to complete.
 One way to eliminate misunderstandings is to
emphasize crucial words in each item by using
bold, italics or underlining.

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 Leave adequate space for respondents to
make comments.
 One criticism of questionnaires is their
inability to retain the "flavor" of a
response.
 Leaving space for comments will provide
valuable information not captured by the
response categories.
 Leaving white space also makes the
questionnaire look easier and this
increases response.

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 Place the most important items in the first
half of the questionnaire.
 Respondents often send back partially
completed questionnaires.
 By putting the most important items near
the beginning, the partially completed
questionnaires will still contain important
information.

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 Use professional production methods for
the questionnaire--either desktop
publishing or typesetting and keylining.
 Be creative.
 Try different colored inks and paper. The
object is to make your questionnaire stand
out from all the others the respondent
receives.

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 The final test of a questionnaire is to try it on
representatives of the target audience.
 If there are problems with the questionnaire, they
almost always show up here. If possible, be present
while a respondent is completing the questionnaire
and tell her that it is okay to ask you for
clarification of any item.
 The questions she asks are indicative of problems in
the questionnaire (i.e., the questions on the
questionnaire must be without any ambiguity
because there will be no chance to clarify a
question when the survey is mailed).

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Types of questions

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Classification # 1

1. Factual questions: age, gender…


2. Opinion and attitude questions: intended to
determine person’s ideas, inclinations, prejudices,
… with attitude scales, and indexes
3. Information questions: designed to measure
respondent’s knowledge
4. Self-perception questions: Similar to attitude
questions but are restricted to one’s opinions
about himself or herself
5. Standards of action questions: used to determine
how respondents would act in certain
circumstances
6. Questions about actual past or present behaviour:
7. Projective questions:
Classification # 2

 Four types of response scales for


closed-ended questions are
distinguished:
 Dichotomous, where the respondent has two options
 Nominal-polytomous, where the respondent has more
than two unordered options
 Ordinal-polytomous, where the respondent has more
than two ordered options
 (bounded)Continuous, where the respondent is
presented with a continuous scale
1. Contingency questions - A question that is
answered only if the respondent gives a
particular response to a previous question.
This avoids asking questions of people that
do not apply to them
2. Matrix questions - Identical response
categories are assigned to multiple
questions. The questions are placed one
under the other, forming a matrix with
response categories along the top and a
list of questions down the side. This is an
efficient use of page space and
respondents’ time.
3. Closed ended questions - Respondents’ answers are
limited to a fixed set of responses.
 Yes/no questions - The respondent answers with a “yes” or a
“no”.
 Multiple choice - The respondent has several option from which
to choose.
 Scaled questions - Responses are graded on a continuum
(example : rate the appearance of the product on a scale from 1
to 10, with 10 being the most preferred appearance). Examples
of types of scales include the Likert scale, semantic differential
scale, and rank-order scale (See scale for a complete list of
scaling techniques.).
 Open ended questions - No options or predefined
categories are suggested. Examples of types of open
ended questions include:
 Completely unstructured - For example, “What is your opinion of
questionnaires?”
 Word association - Words are presented and the respondent mentions
the first word that comes to mind.
 Sentence completion - Respondents complete an incomplete
sentence. For example, “The most important consideration in my
decision to buy a new house is . . .”
 Story completion - Respondents complete an incomplete story.
 Picture completion - Respondents fill in an empty conversation balloon.
 Thematic apperception test - Respondents explain a picture or make
up a story about what they think is happening in the picture
Question Structure
Open-end questions
If you were to purchase a new automobile during 2001, what brand of automobile would
you most likely purchase? ___________ brand
Closed-ended with ordered categories
If you were to purchase a new automobile during 2001, how likely is it that you would
purchase the following brands of automobiles?
Very Likely Somewhat Likely Somewhat Unlikely Very Unlikely
Toyota Camry 1 2 3 4
Honda Accord 1 2 3 4
Nissan Maxima 1 2 3 4
Closed-ended with unordered categories
If you were to purchase a new automobile during 2001, which one of the following
automobiles would you most likely purchase?
Toyota Camry ❏ Honda Accord ❏
Nissan Maxima ❏
Partially closed-ended
If you were to purchase a new automobile during 2001, which one of the following would
you most likely purchase?
Toyota Camry ❏ Honda Accord ❏
Nissan Maxima ❏ Other (please
specify)______________
Closed Vs. Open-ended Questions

Advantages Disadvantages
Closed-ended •Easy and quick to answer •Can put ideas in resp's head
•Answers across resps easy to •Resps w/ no opinion answer anyway
compare •Resps can feel constrained/frustrated
•Answers easier to analyze on •Many choices can be confusing
computer •Can't tell if resp. misinterpreted the
•Response choices make question
question clearer •Fine distinctions may be lost
•Easy to replicate study •Clerical mistakes easy to make
•Force respondents into simple
responses
Open-ended •Permit unlimited number of •Resps give answers w/ diff. level of
answers detail
•Resps can qualify and clarify •Answers can be irrelevant
responses •Inarticulate or forgetful resps are at
•Can find the unanticipated disadvantage
•Reveal resps thinking processes •Coding responses is subjective and
tedious
•Requires more resp. time and effort
•Intimidates respondents
•When resp omits a response, can't tell
if its because
of belief or just forgetfulness
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Closed Vs. Open-ended Questions

Evaluation Advantages Disadvantages


Criteria
Time Less time to Longer time to
respond & record develop

Quick transfer to
computer form

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Evaluation Advantages Disadvantages
Criteria

Cost Cheaper due to lower


recording &
interpreting time

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Evaluation Advantages Disadvantages
Criteria

Accuracy Less interviewer Forcing answers into


recording error categories

Respondent More convenient to


convenience answer

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Structured Questions:
Effect on Respondent Answers

 Response order effects


 Visual presentation of response alternatives
 Primacy effects
 initial items establish a cognitive framework to guide
processing
 initial items get deeper cognitive processing & less
interference than later items
 satisficing — minimize psychological costs by
choosing first acceptable response alternative

SOURCE: Krosnick and Alwin, POQ


Structured Questions:
Effect on Respondent Answers

Response order effects


Oral presentation of response alternatives
Recency effects
externally based processing
each read alternative terminates processing of previous alternative
increased processing of later response alternatives

Source: An evaluation of a cognitive theory of response-order effects in survey


measurement,” J. Krosnick and D. Alwin, Public Opinion Quarterly, 1987,
51, 1201-1219.
Question Sequence
and Order Effects

Question Once Committed


Hard to be
Unfair

Do you think a communist country like 37%


Question sequence 2 Yes
reporters come in and send back to th
Do you think the United States should let communist newspaper reporters
from other countries come in and send back to their papers the news as they
36%
Difference !

see it?

Do you think a communist country like Russia should let American newspaper

Do you think the United States should


reporters come in and send back to their papers the news as they see it? 66%

other countries come in and send bac


Source: “The Norm of Even-handedness in Surveys as in Life,” H.
Schuman and J. Ludwig, American Sociological Review, 1983, 48,
Questionnaire Format
 Matrix questions are often useful.
 They use space efficiently
 Respondents can answer quickly
 Respondents can compare across questions for consistency.
 However, matrix questions have some
problems.
 You might be tempted to put questions into a matrix when
they belong in some other format.
 Respondents may pattern their answers inappropriately.
 Order effects may be quite pronounced, with strong potential
for abuse of the survey.
 Some special comments on order effects.
 Early answers tend to influence later answers.
 Some respondents (such as less educated respondents) are
more subject to order effects than other respondents.
 Randomizing questions tends not to help - it just makes the
survey more confusing.
 Fun or interesting questions in the early part of a
questionnaire can maintain interest, but general,
demographic sorts of questions can establish rapport.
• You might want to adjust the order of questions according to
the type of survey – interview or questionnaire.
Other Types

 Leading Questions: A leading


question is one that forces or implies
a certain type of answer. E.g.
 Superb
 Excellent
 Great
 Good
 Fair
 Not so Great

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 Embarrassing Questions: Embarrassing
questions dealing with personal or
private matters should be avoided. Your
data is only as good as the trust and
care that your respondents give you. If
you make them feel uncomfortable, you
will lose their trust. Do not ask
embarrassing questions.

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 Hypothetical Questions:
Hypothetical are based, at best, on
conjecture and, at worst, on fantasy.
I simple question such as:
 If you were governor, what would you do to combat
terrorism?
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Most frequent errors


in questionnaires

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Issues to Consider

To Neutral or Not to Neutral.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Agree Strongly Agree


Disagree

1 2 3 4 5

Think about how a respondent enters a response


scale and how many decisions the person must
make.
Pre-coding can save time with data entry.
Has this presentation increased your understanding of questionnaire
development?

1  Yes 2 No
Pre-code

There is more than one way to ask a question. Use a


variety of question formats.
What do you think?

Were you satisfied with the quality of our


services and programs?
A. Yes
B. No

Double Barrel: Ask only one question at a


time
most frequent errors in
questionnaires

 questions which don't quite mean what


the researcher intended
 questions which don't probe to find out
what the respondent really meant
long and complicated questions
 questions which repeat what has already
been asked
 questions which don't allow the
respondent to answer in a way which is
relevant
 questions which are inappropriate to the
research method
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 bad routing which leaves the interviewer
wondering which question to ask next, or
worse, routing to the wrong one
too many questions
 poorly laid out questions which are badly
grouped in the questionnaire
 questions which have been missed out
completely
 pages of the questionnaire which are
missing or out of order.

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 Research showing that small
changes in question wording or
order can substantially affect
responses has reinforced the
assumption that questions must be
asked exactly as worded, and in the
same order, to produce comparable
data.

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Guidelines

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Quality aims in survey research

Goal is to collect information that is:


 Valid: measures the quantity or concept that
is supposed to be measured
 Reliable: measures the quantity or concept in
a consistent or reproducible manner
 Unbiased: measures the quantity or concept
in a way that does not systematically under-
or overestimate the true value
 Discriminating: can distinguish adequately
between respondents for whom the underlying
level of the quantity or concept is different

72
Qualities of a Good Question

 Evokes the truth. Questions must be non-


threatening. When a respondent is
concerned about the consequences of
answering a question in a particular
manner, there is a good possibility that the
answer will not be truthful. Anonymous
questionnaires that contain no identifying
information are more likely to produce
honest responses than those identifying
the respondent. If your questionnaire does
contain sensitive items, be sure to clearly
state your policy on confidentiality.

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 Asks for an answer on only one dimension.
The purpose of a survey is to find out
information. A question that asks for a
response on more than one dimension will
not provide the information you are
seeking. For example, a researcher
investigating a new food snack asks "Do
you like the texture and flavor of the
snack?" If a respondent answers "no",
then the researcher will not know if the
respondent dislikes the texture or the
flavor, or both

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 Can accommodate all possible answers.
Multiple choice items are the most popular
type of survey questions because they are
generally the easiest for a respondent to
answer and the easiest to analyze. Asking
a question that does not accommodate all
possible responses can confuse and
frustrate the respondent. For example,
consider the question:
 What brand of computer do you own? __
 A. IBM PC
 B. Apple

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 Has mutually exclusive options. A good
question leaves no ambiguity in the mind of
the respondent. There should be only one
correct or appropriate choice for the
respondent to make. An obvious example is:
 Where did you grow up? __
 A. country
 B. farm
 C. city
 A person who grew up on a farm in the
country would not know whether to select
choice A or B.

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 Produces variability of responses. When a
question produces no variability in
responses, we are left with considerable
uncertainty about why we asked the
question and what we learned from the
information. If a question does not
produce variability in responses, it will not
be possible to perform any statistical
analyses on the item. For example:
 What do you think about this report? __
 A. It's the worst report I've read
 B. It's somewhere between the worst and best
 C. It's the best report I've read
 Almost all responses would be choice B,
 Order of questions:
 Go from general to particular.
 Go from easy to difficult.
 Go from factual to abstract.
 Start with closed format questions.
 Start with questions relevant to the main subject.
 Do not start with demographic and personal
questions.

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 Follows comfortably from the previous
question. Writing a questionnaire is similar
to writing anything else. Transitions
between questions should be smooth.
Grouping questions that are similar will
make the questionnaire easier to
complete, and the respondent will feel
more comfortable. Questionnaires that
jump from one unrelated topic to another
feel disjointed and are not likely to
produce high response rates.

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 Does not presuppose a certain state of
affairs. Among the most subtle mistakes in
questionnaire design are questions that
make an unwarranted assumption. An
example of this type of mistake is:
 Are you satisfied with your current auto insurance? (Yes or No)
 This question will present a problem for
someone who does not currently have auto
insurance. Better:
 Are you satisfied with your current auto insurance?
___ Yes __ No ___ Don't have auto
insurance

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 Does not imply a desired answer. The
wording of a question is extremely
important. We are striving for objectivity in
our surveys and, therefore, must be careful
not to lead the respondent into giving the
answer we would like to receive. Leading
questions are usually easily spotted
because they use negative phraseology. As
examples:

 Wouldn't you like to receive our free brochure?


 Don't you think the PPP Govt is spending too much money?

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 Does not use emotionally loaded or
vaguely defined words. This is one of the
areas overlooked by both beginners and
experienced researchers. Quantifying
adjectives (e.g., most, least, majority) are
frequently used in questions. It is
important to understand that these
adjectives mean different things to
different people.
 Does not use unfamiliar words or
abbreviations. Remember who your audience
is and write your questionnaire for them. Do
not use uncommon words or compound
sentences. Write short sentences.
Abbreviations are okay if you are absolutely
certain that every single respondent will
understand their meanings. If there is any
doubt at all, do not use the abbreviation. The
following question might be okay if all the
respondents are accountants:
 What was your company’s liquidity ratio last year? ______
. How much did you spend last year for life insurance ? ______

 Is not dependent on responses to previous


questions. Branching in written questionnaires
should be avoided. While branching can be used as
an effective probing technique in telephone and
face-to-face interviews, it should not be used in
written questionnaires because it sometimes
confuses respondents. An example of branching is:
 1. Do you currently have a life insurance policy ? (Yes or No) If no, go
to question 3
 2. How much is your annual life insurance premium ? ______
 Alternate Option:
 How much did you spend last year for life insurance ? ______
 Does not ask the respondent to order or rank a
series of more than five items. This becomes
increasingly difficult as the number of items
increases, and the answers become less reliable.
This becomes especially problematic when asking
respondents to assign a percentage to a series of
items. In order to successfully complete this task,
the respondent must mentally continue to re-
adjust his answers until they total one hundred
percent. Limiting the number of items to five will
make it easier for the respondent to answer.

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Questionnaire Construction

 Keep it short, simple, and specific (KISSS)


 Logical question progression
 Flow more important than grammatical
correctness
 Key questions first, sensitive last
 Keep allied questions together
 Be reasonable when requesting forecasts
 Mix fully-structured and open-ended questions
 Clear routing instructions, use colour
General Questionnaire Sequence

 Start with simple more general


questions
 nonthreatening
 interesting
 general respondent capability

 Respondents will be looking for an


Excuse
 to Terminate or Stop Interview
Comment on this question?

 How often did you talk to your


dental rep from XYZ during the past
three months?
 Never
 Rarely
 Occasionally
 Regularly
Revision
 How often did you talk to your
dental rep from XYZ during the past
three months?
 Not at all
 Once per month
 About 2-3 times per month
 About once per week
 More than once per week
Don’t Use Double Questions

This cement will be sold in


premixed tubes and does not
require agitation
Do you believe this product is different enough from
the product you currently use and would you
purchase it?
• Yes
• No
• Don’t know
Checklist for Question Wording
● vague - questions and answers
● bias or leading
● objectionable/embarrassing
● too demanding
● check for double questions
● do they have the ability to
answer
● give frame of reference
● consider ability to compare
responses across past studies
Questionnaire Pretesting

 PRETESTING METHODS
 Qualitative assessment
• debriefing

 Quantitative assessments
• pilot study (method of
administration)
Resources

 Moser CA, Kalton G. Survey methods in social


investigation. 2nd ed. Aldershot: Gower; 1971.
 Sheatsley, P.B. (1983) Questionnaire
construction and item writing. In Ross, P.H.,
Wright, J.D. and Anderson, A.B.(Eds.), Handbook
of Survey Research. New York: Academic Press.
 Sudman, S. and Bradburn, N.M. (1989) Asking
questions: A practical guide to questionnaire
design. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

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 Oppenheim, A.N. (1992) Questionnaire
design, interviewing and attitude
measurement. London: Pinter

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 http://www.marketresearchworld.net
 www.statpac.com/surveys
 “Design and use of questionnaires:
a review of best practice applicable
to surveys of health service staff
and patients”, Health Technology
Assessment, 2001. Vol.5, No. 31.

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