Data Collection Methods: Questionnaire

3.5.1 Use of Questionnaire Method of Data Collection:

Questionnaire method is one of the commonly used method of data collection especially in survey research design. A questionnaire constitutes a set of written questions on a sheet with spaces provided for respondents to reply to the items (questions). There are several reasons why a questionnaire is used in a study. These include the following: its potential in reaching out to many respondents within a short time, b) able to give the respondents adequate time to respond to the items, c) offers a sense of security (confidentiality) to the respondent and d) it is an objective method since no bias resulting from the personal characteristics (as in an interview) (Owens, 2002).


However, questionnaires are characterized by two main disadvantages, namely: a) only people who can read and write can answer them and b) less opportunity exists for the respondent to explain confusing answers.


Steps when designing a questionnaire

Drawing the structure of the questionnaires based on study parameters: When designing a questionnaire, the first step is to write down the broad areas you wish to cover based on your parameters or the independent variables of the study. The researcher should first think about what he/she intends to measure. For instance in a study entitled: ‘Determinants of Financial Sustainability in Non Governmental Organizations’, the researcher would be guided by certain theorized or hypothesized parameters which include but not limited to Financial Management, Resource Mobilization, Resource Diversification and Donor Management. These parameters will help the researcher in determining how to structure the questionnaire. Each parameter is supposed to generate adequate items (questions) to measure what one expects to establish. Thus, the questionnaire is structured or organized according to the study objectives or parameters or concepts.


Designing the items – The individual items of the questionnaires are organized according to the questionnaires thematic areas or parameters. A well structured conceptual framework and literature review guides the development of individual items of the questionnaire.


Determining the type of questions to ask – There are open-ended and close-ended questions that a researcher may decide to ask while developing a questionnaire. In close- ended questionnaire, the researcher may provide formats such as true or false responses to statements; may use Likert Scale (Strongly Agree, Agree, Undecided, Disagree and Strongly Disagree) while assessing attitudes or have the multiple choice items. Close-ended questions are usually easy to analyze provided one offers suitable alternatives.

In contrast, open-ended questions offer no potential answers and respondents are permitted to respond in any way they choose. Open-ended questions allow the respondent to answer in his or her own words. The questionnaire does not provide a list of answers or options from which the respondent must choose. Open-ended questions are particularly useful when one wants to ask about ideas or opinions, and when the investigator really does not know what answers to expect. However, in as much as possible, try to limit the number of open ended items, especially when dealing with a large sample frame. It can be very tedious to extract all the responses from the open ended items and time constraints may not be kind enough. Further, respondents tend to skip most of the open ended items when answering questionnaires.



It is important to keep in mind the following points when writing questions: Use the language that suits your respondent, ensure your questions are clear and specific, Each question should address only one issue, Avoid ‘double ’questions in one item, avoid asking ‘leading’ questions, sequence questions in a logical order, provide clear instructions about how to answer the questions, take special care in the wording of sensitive questions and always validate or pilot a questionnaire on a few people before it is completed. Remember, it is unethical to waste people’s time in collecting data which will not amount to reasonably answering the objectives of the study. Thus, great care should be taken while designing data collection instruments. 

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