To collect relevant data

Since data collection is structured by the questionnaire it is a most important element in the research process. The quality of the data gathered is highly dependent on the design of the questionnaire and the questions it contains. A poorly designed questionnaire will collect inappropriate or inaccurate data and so negate the whole purpose of the research, even though the major costs will have been incurred. No amount of good analysis can retrieve bad data. The first stage in designing a questionnaire is to clarify its objectives. The 'Definition of research required', discussed in Section 5.4, would form the basis for this. The role of the research user is to ensure that research specialists responsible for questionnaire design are fully and adequately briefed. Once the questionnaire objectives have been agreed, they form the framework within which all subsequent decisions about the questionnaire structure and question content are made. This mechanism ensures that the data collected is directly relevant to the problem.

The relevance of information produced is also determined by the analysis and interpretation to which it can be subjected. For this reason question design must be clearly linked to schemes for processing and analysing the data. There is no point in including questions that cannot be analysed to produce usable information. A readership study for a local newspaper wanted to measure the appeal of various items to different class, age, region and special interest groups. The questions about liking of editorial, sport, women's and motoring sections were made relevant to the purposes of the survey by analysis against the descriptive variables. All had to be included in the questionnaire.

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