Pre Testing the Questionnaire

It is fairly common for professionals to discover the questions they should have asked as responses begin to come in. Most times there is no immediate budget to take a second bite at the cherry. However, if you are conducting your own survey, you may be able to have a second go. This being said, there is no substitute for getting your questionnaire right the first time.

After you have agreed what questions you think you want to ask, consider very carefully what you are going to do with the answers. The exercise often reveals some questions as being surprisingly unimportant while others need a slight surgical rephrasing. You may also find some additional queries essential if you are to assemble data on which you can persuade others to act. It is a very sensible idea to pilot the questionnaire on a test sample before you send it out en-masse. This will alert you to omissions and questions respondents have trouble answering because of the way they were phrased. A sample of about 20 from the list is usually enough. If you are approaching respondents by mail it makes sense to ask for their telephone number so you can follow up on their answers.

If you don't get clear answers in the sample test, rephrase the question and try again until you elicit responses that produce a clear "Yes" or "No," but remember, there is a limit to probing. There are always respondents who have no views on anything. Results from the pilot should not be included in the overall results if the questionnaire is altered.

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