Subject data

This refers to the information being gathered to meet the survey objectives, and forms the major part of the questionnaire. It is often helpful to begin by constructing a flowchart diagram. This is useful in planning the sequence of the questionnaire when different questions need to be asked of different respondents, e.g. 'Have you made any journeys by bus this week?'

The question used in this example is described as a 'filter' question, or 'skip', because it filters respondents into or out of subsequent question sections. Great care must be taken if several filter questions are to be used, to ensure that it is quite clear what route the respondent must follow through the questionnaire. Arrows appearing on the questionnaire are sometimes used to aid the interviewer and ensure that sections are not missed completely. Devices to ensure that sections are not missed are particularly important in self-completion questionnaires, and sometimes differently coloured pages are used to help respondents to identify which sections to complete. Online questionnaires can build skips automatically into questionnaires by inserting links to subsequent questions based on response to a question. Instructions to the interviewer are normally shown in capital letters. Figure 8.2 illustrates the use of skips.

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Figure 8.2: Filter questions or 'skips'

Figure 8.2: Filter questions or 'skips'

In thinking about the order of questions, it is important to remember that the respondent's reaction to the first few questions will determine whether he or she decides to continue cooperation throughout the interview. These early questions should therefore be of interest to the respondent and be easy to answer. This latter point is an important one, since many respondents initially regard a research interview as being a test of their knowledge, and on being approached may say, 'I can't help you. I don't know a lot about it'. When they realize from the first couple of questions that the questions are really quite easy, and well within their experience, then they will relax and the interviewer's task is made easier as the respondent's confidence grows. For opposite reasons, questions that are either uninteresting or rather personal in nature should appear as late as possible in the questionnaire. The assumption is that a good interviewer will have built up sufficient rapport by this time to carry on through less interesting material which might earlier have caused the respondent to terminate the interview.

Another point to bear in mind is the influence of each question on succeeding questions. It is pointless to present a respondent with a show card listing brands and ask about brand attributes, then later in the questionnaire ask what brands the respondent can recall. The recall question must come first.

Every attempt should be made to ensure a logical sequence to the questions so that the respondent is aided in thinking about the subject and is more likely to produce reliable answers.

Team LiB

Online Survey Champion

Online Survey Champion

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