Good questionnaire design
Every questionnaire should include:
- A brief introduction explaining why you are conducting your survey
- An explanation of what the information will be used for and if the information will be shared with other organisations
- The name and contact details of the organisation conducting the survey (for more information and for people who may need help to complete it)
- The return deadline and details of how to return the questionnaire.
Writing your questions
The way you ask or phrase your question will change the way people respond, and the type of information you want to collect, will influence the type of question you will want to ask. There are two types of question.
- Closed questions are questions where the respondent chooses one or more answers from a range of options provided. Closed questions do not allow the respondent to express their own alternative opinions. They are easy to analyse and provide a definitive answer.
- Open questions are questions where the respondent can personalise their answer, rather than select one from a list. When using open questions, it is important to make sure there is enough space for people to write their answers. These answers are more difficult to analyse, but can provide more insight.
Sometimes asking one or two closed question, followed by an open question can provide information which is easier to analyse, but allows a level of insight. For example:
When phrasing your questions be aware that there may be mixed need within a single household. You will need to consider if you want your questions answered based on the whole household (tick all that apply) or for the questionnaire to be completed on an individual basis. If the latter is the case you will need to tell people where further copies can be obtained.
Asking respondents to fill in a table can also provide a high level of clarity. For example:
It is also helpful to get a profile of the respondent, for example age range, gender, location. This will also help you to establish who isn’t responding and therefore where you may need to do further consultation work to get a balanced view of overall need.
If you are asking individuals to include their name and contact details on the questionnaire, it is advisable to make this optional and to clearly state how this will be used. For example, ‘If you are happy for us to contact you about your transport needs, please include your name and telephone number in the space below. This information will not be shared with anybody else.’ It is important that you only use the information in the way you say you will. For more information about storing, using and sharing information which you collect, visit the Information Commissioner’s Office website (see below).
It is also important to:
- Allow space for people to make their own comments
- Avoid leading questions
- Keep the language simple and jargon free.
Questionnaire layout and design
Layout and design of printed publications can influence the number of people you reach. A well designed questionnaire means making it:
- eye catching - not just another bit of paper
- giving it community ownership, for example by including the Parish Council logo
- making it easy to read, for example, using a large font size, avoiding shading behind text and use a clear typeface. For information about what makes a printed document easy to read, see “Guidance on the layout and design of printed publications” below.
The order of your questions are also important, and will influence whether people take the time to complete the questionnaire and return it.
- Questions should be in a logical order with simple, introductory questions at the beginning.
- The first few questions need to be topical and inclusive to keep peoples interest. For example, ‘How often do you use the no7. bus?’ as a first question, may automatically exclude a large number of people. However, asking ‘Please let us know which of the following services you are aware of and use.’ (followed by a list of different available transport services), will enable more respondents to answer the first question.
- Don’t make it too long, people will get bored and not fill in all the questions or not return the questionnaire at all.
When the final draft is ready, test your questionnaire on some volunteers.
Documents and web links
Example transport questionnaires:
- Survey on transport needs from Pamber, Silchester and Mortimer West End Parish Councils 49kb
- Accessibility questionnaire for Appleshaw & Redenham Parish 55kb
- Public Transport – Buses User Needs Survey for Hartley Wintney Parish 176kb
- Public Transport – Winchfield Station User Needs Survey for Hartley Wintney Parish 80kb
- Transport information questionnaire for Wickham Parish 128kb (pre leaflet)
- Transport information questionnaire for Wickham Parish 72kb (post leaflet)
Questionnaire templates, which you may want to adapt for your own use:
More information is also available on Guidance on the layout and design of printed publications 23kb
Information Commissioner’s Office (information about storing, using and sharing information).