A structured questionnaire is a data collection tool used strictly for quantitative research studies. This article highlights important points that should be considered when designing and administering structured questionnaires.
Designing a structured questionnaire
Structured questionnaires collect precise information from participants.
Because they are used for quantitative research studies, the questions included in the questionnaire should render themselves to quantitative data analysis techniques.
Structured questionnaires mostly include closed-ended questions which can be easily coded with numerical codes and easily analysed statistically.
Types of closed-ended questions used in structured questionnaires
There are several types of closed-ended questions:
Numerical response questions
These are questions whose responses are in numerical format.
For your most recent birth, how many times did you attend antenatal clinic?
How many children do you have?
These are questions whose responses have only two options.
Did you receive tetanus injection during your last pregnancy? Yes, No
Does your household use soap for hand-washing? Yes, No
Multiple choice questions
These are questions whose responses are many and the respondents choose the one that is most applicable to them.
What is your highest level of education?
University/college, secondary school, upper primary, lower primary, none
Multiple choice questions also come in many formats including: Likert scale, rating scale, rank order, and checklist questions.
Likert scale questions
Likert scale questions are used to elicit respondents’ feelings, opinions or experiences with the question asked.
These questions use a scale to measure the responses, with the most commonly used scale being a 5-point or a 7-point scale. The scale used includes a neutral option.
To what extent do you agree with the following statement? My government has adequately provided infrastructure to ensure that no child is left behind in matters education:
Strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, strongly agree
Rating scale questions
These questions are similar to Likert scale questions and are sometimes used interchangeably.
Rating scale questions are often used to rate respondents’ satisfaction with the product/service in question.
How satisfied were you with the services offered at your health facility during your last delivery?
Very dissatisfied, dissatisfied, neither dissatisfied nor satisfied, satisfied, very satisfied
Rank order questions
These questions are used to elicit the preferences of respondents with a product/service by asking the respondents to rank the choices provided in order of preference (the most preferred first, the least preferred last).
From the following features of maternal health services offered at your local health facility, order them according to your level of importance (most important first, least important last)
Respectful care, compassionate care, affordability of the services, availability of skilled healthcare workers, cleanliness of the facility, ambience of the facility
In these questions, the respondents are provided with a list of options and are asked to check all those that are applicable to them.
Which of the following electronic goods does your household possess? Tick all that apply
TV, radio, washing machine, cooker, mobile phones, microwave, laptop, personal computer, printer, scanner.
When formulating the questions, the following should be taken into consideration:
- Always include the “skip logic” where necessary.
Some questions may not be applicable to some respondents depending on what their responses are to previous questions. In such instances, include the skip logic to inform the respondents to skip those questions that do not apply to them.
Example of skip logic is: “If No, skip to question 6“
- Include the response option “I don’t know” where applicable
This response is applicable to some questions asked and indicates the state of knowledge in some questions amongst the respondents.
- When providing a list of responses for the respondents to choose from, be as exhaustive as possible and also ensure that there is no overlap in the responses.
- Include the response option “Other” where applicable
Sometimes it is impossible to be exhaustive hence the option “other” helps the respondents to list other responses that the researcher may have left out.
The document attached below provides a summary of the type of questions used in a structured questionnaire and question examples. Feel free to download it.
Administering the questionnaire
After designing the questionnaire, it is important to first pilot test with a few people before embarking on the data collection process.
Pilot testing helps the researcher to identify problematic and ambiguous questions which may hamper the quality of the data collected.
After pilot testing the questionnaire, the researcher should revise the questions that need revision after which he can administer the questionnaire to the targeted respondents.
Questionnaire administration methods
There are three ways of administering a questionnaire:
In this method, the research administers the questionnaire himself.
The advantage with this method is that the researcher is in control of the quality of data he collects.
The disadvantage is that is that it is not feasible in cases where the sample size is large; it can be time-consuming and costly.
Using research assistants to administer the questionnaire
The other method involves using trained research assistants to administer the questionnaire.
The research assistants must be adequately trained to ensure that they are on the same page with the research as far as understanding the questions is concerned.
The advantage is that it is time-saving even where the study involves a large sample size. The researcher can collect data from hundreds of participants within a short period of time.
The disadvantage is that it is also costly; the researcher must pay professional fees as well as travel and accommodation expenses where applicable.
The other disadvantage is that the researcher must put in place rigorous quality control methods to ensure that the data from the field is of high quality.
In this method, the researcher sends the questionnaire directly to the respondents for them to fill and send back.
There are different ways of delivering the questionnaire to the respondents including: physical delivery to the respondents’ address, sending it by postal service, or sending it by email. Each of these delivery methods has pros and cons.
When choosing the method of questionnaire administration and delivery, the researcher should take into account socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the respondents.
For instance, using self administration and email delivery methods assumes that the respondents are literate and have access to the Internet.
Questionnaire administration media
Besides the method of administration and delivery of the questionnaire, the researcher should also consider the medium to be used.
Traditionally, the pen and paper method was widely used to administer questionnaires but this is currently obsolete and has been replaced with digital survey tools most of which are easily available on the Internet.
Pen and paper
Using pen and paper method has many disadvantages including:
- The cost of printing the questionnaires can be high if the sample size is large.
- Paper questionnaires are prone to getting lost, damaged and defaced.
- It is difficult to continuously monitor the quality of the data with paper questionnaires because you have to wait for the research assistants to return them first.
- Requires additional time and resources for data entry from the manual questionnaire to the data analysis software. This has time and cost implications. The researcher has to wait for all the questionnaires to be returned from the field before data entry can be done.
Digital survey tools
Digital tools on the other hand can be costly in terms of purchase of the gadgets and the tools themselves. However, they have many advantages including:
- Allows quality control mechanisms to be established from the word go and continuously as the data is trickling in.
- It is not easy for the digital data to get lost especially if data protection mechanisms – such as password protection and saving to the cloud – have been put in place.
- Digital data collection automates the data entry process and also allows the researcher to start analysing the data immediately. This is both time- and cost-saving.
In conclusion, structured questionnaires are effective tools for collecting quantitative data. This article has highlighted important points to be considered when designing and administering the questionnaire including the type of questions that are used in structured questionnaires, the methods and the media used to administer the questionnaires.