The physical appearance of the questionnaire affects its likelihood of securing a response, and this is particularly so for self-completion questionnaires. Ease of use and analysis are dependent on good questionnaire layout. The questionnaire should be laid out using adequate space and reasonable quality paper. If it looks too 'amateurish' the respondent is less likely to co-operate. If the questionnaire looks as though its perpetrators attach little importance to it, then why should respondents give up their time?
Also important at this moment of attracting the potential respondent's attention is the verbal introduction used by the interviewer. This must be worked out by the researcher, and should be written on the questionnaire. The form of introduction used is a major influence in securing acceptance, and should not be left to the interviewer's own initiative. Where explanations for the purpose of the survey can be given without possibly biasing response, then this should be done. If a specific explanation is undesirable, then a general statement should be made that gives the respondent some good reason for co-operating. 'To help us produce better products, or services' is often an acceptable rationale. Giving the respondent a good reason for co-operating is especially important in interviewing business and professional people, who generally attach more importance to the value of their time.
In considering the form of the questionnaire, the conditions under which the interviewer is expected to use it should be remembered. If a quota sample is being used, when the interviewer will probably be working outside, possibly in wind or rain, then the questionnaire must not disintegrate or fly off in all directions. This explains the wide use made of clipboards, and sometimes of a book format.
As far as layout is concerned, interviewer instructions must be clearly distinguished from questions, usually by using a different typeface or capital letters. When filter questions are being used, either the arrows referred to earlier can assist interviewers in following the correct path through the interview, or more easily, the number of the next question for each response can be written on the questionnaire. Examples of these points are shown in Figure 8.2.
Using the questionnaire can be made easier for both interviewer and respondent by providing show cards whenever a choice of responses is available. These ensure that the respondent is not reliant on memory when selecting a response, and as the answer is read out, the interviewer can ring the appropriate codes on the questionnaire. Figure 8.3 gives one example of this, and more complicated examples allowing multiple coding are shown in Figures 8.5 and 9.1.
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