Questionnaire structure

The structure of a questionnaire is important to ensure it is clear and easy to complete, and that participants are guided through the questions in a chronological order.

Also consider the order of your questions as you want to minimise priming or framing topics to reduce bias if they are asked about later in the questionnaire.

A typical questionnaire will be structured as follows:

  • Screening section at the beginning of the survey will ensure you are talking to the right people i.e. your target sample
  • Main body of the questionnaire will cover the key questions you want to find out, starting broadly, then becoming more focused as the questionnaire progresses
  • Lastly, any final demographic information not essential in the screening section is gathered for profiling and analysis

Types of questions

The questionnaire should include different types of questions to achieve robust data and maintain participant engagement throughout the survey. Different question types include:

  • Structured questions (closed and open-ended)
  • Question styles e.g. yes/no, choose from list, agree/disagree, drag ‘n’ drop etc.
  • Open-ended questions – participants can freely type or say what they want to answer the question

Also think about question wording: questions should be clear, specific, and easy for every participant to answer.

Questionnaire length

Overall, you need to be mindful of the length of the questionnaire. An optimal online questionnaire will last no more than 10-15 minutes in length. Any longer than this tends to lead to respondent fatigue and potentially a higher level of drop out.

If a face-to-face method is used, the questionnaire length may need to be very short if intercepting people in the street. Conversely, a longer questionnaire may be acceptable and appropriate if you are completing an in-home face-to-face survey.

  1. Further reading & information

Additional information and guidance on quantitative research approaches can be found here:

  1. MRS events and conferences
  2. Yvonne McGivern. 4th Edition (2013). The Practice of Market Research: An Introduction
  3. Get in touch with a market research specialist https://www.mrs.org.uk/researchbuyersguide

This article was kindly contributed by Hannah Kilshaw, Research Director at ICM Unlimited.

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