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Why does everyone think they can write a good questionnaire?

July 30, 2013

This is going to be a short one.

The answer is: I don’t know.

But questionnaire design does appear to be something that every man and his dog thinks they have the skills to do themselves.

They don’t.

Or at least, I see plenty of terrible biased / leading / boring / illogical surveys in my day-to-day life that have clearly designed by someone who is not well versed in the good practice of questionnaire design.

  • Maybe people can’t tell the difference between a good questionnaire and a bad questionnaire?
  • Maybe people don’t know when they have personally produced a bad one?
  • Maybe people are exposed to so many bad questionnaires that they don’t know that there can be good ones?

I’m opening this one up to you.

Why does everyone think they can write a good questionnaire?

I mean, I don’t think I can teach GCSE Latin or cut someone’s hair or stitch up a wound …

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2013 12:39 pm

    I’ll get things started…

    Q: Why does everyone think they can write a good questionnaire?

    A: People think they can write a good questionnaire because they can’t tell the difference between a good one and a bad one.

    It’s a bit like people that do karaoke (or audition for X-Factor) and sound terrible. They are so tone deaf they don’t even realise it, they can’t tell the difference between the noise that they make and the noise that a professional artist makes, so they happily sing away.

    People write bad questionnaires because they can’t see the difference between what they produce and what professional researchers produce. They are “questionnaire deaf” and don’t notice the care that is taken by professionals to avoid bias, to sequence questions naturally, to collect demographic data sensitively and to ensure that the results are meaningful and easily processed.

    Maybe the next question should be “why are people questionnaire deaf?”

  2. July 31, 2013 8:41 am

    I agree -people simply don’t see that a question they’ve written doesn’t work or that the question order is confusing. Would it help if they actually got out there and tried asking the questions? They’d probably remain as ‘deaf’ to the answers as the questions.

  3. August 20, 2013 9:27 am

    I wrote my questionnaire because it’s a part of my MBA thesis research. I did think it was a good questionnaire and I was about to start sending it out when I read this (and other) posts. Part of the reason I thought I could write a good questionnaire was that conducting a survey is like sitting down with a peson and asking a bunch of questions. EVERYONE can do that.
    Now I think different and know I need to put a lot more work into my questionnaire.

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