Kind of questions

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In general, there are two types of questions one will ask, open format or closed format. Open format questions are those that ask for unprompted opinions. In other words, there are no predetermined set of responses, and the participant is free to answer however he chooses. Open format questions are good for soliciting subjective data or when the range of responses is not tightly defined. An obvious advantage is that the variety of responses should be wider and more truly reflect the opinions of the respondents.

This increases the likelihood of you receiving unexpected and insightful suggestions, for it is impossible to predict the full range of opinion. It is common for a questionnaire to end with and open format question asking the respondent for her unabashed ideas for changes or improvements. Open format questions have several disadvantages. First, their very nature requires them to be read individually. There is no way to automatically tabulate or perform statistical analysis on them. This is obviously more costly in both time and money, and may not be practical for lower budget or time sensitive evaluations.

They are also open to the influence of the reader, for no two people will interpret an answer in precisely the same way. This conflict can be eliminated by using a single reader, but a large number of responses can make this impossible. Finally, open format questions require more thought and time on the part of the respondent. Whenever more is asked of the respondent, the chance of tiring or boring the respondent increases. Closed format questions usually take the form of a multiple-choice question.

They are easy for the respondent, give There is no clear consensus on the number of options that should be given in an closed format question. Obviously, there needs to be sufficient choices to fully cover the range of answers but not so many that the distinction between them becomes blurred. Usually this translates into five to ten possible answers per questions. For questions that measure a single variable or opinion, such as ease of use or liability, over a complete range (easy to difficult, like to dislike), conventional wisdom says that there should be an odd number of alternatives.

This allows a neutral or no opinion response. Other schools of thought contend that an even number of choices is best because it forces the respondent to get off the fence. This may induce the some inaccuracies for often the respondent may actually have no opinion. However, it is equally arguable that the neutral answer is over utilized, especially by bored questionnaire takers. For larger questionnaires that test opinions on a very large number of items, such as a music test, it may be best to use an even number of choices to prevent large numbers of no-thought neutral answers.

Closed format questions offer many advantages in time and money. By restricting the answer set, it is easy to calculate percentages and other hard statistical data over the whole group or over any subgroup of participants. Modern scanners and computers make it possible to administer, tabulate, and perform preliminary analysis in a matter of days. Closed format questions also make it easier to track opinion over time by administering the same questionnaire to different but similar participant groups at regular intervals.

Finally closed format questions allow the researcher to filter out useless or extreme answers that might occur in an open format question. Whether your questions are open or closed format, there are several points that must by considered when writing and interpreting questionnaires: 1. Clarity: This is probably the area that causes the greatest source of mistakes in questionnaires. Questions must be clear, succinct, and unambiguous. The goal is to eliminate the chance that the question will mean different things to different people.

If the designers fails to do this, then essentially participants will be answering different questions. To this end, it is best to phrase your questions empirically if possible and to avoid the use of necessary adjectives. For example, it asking a question about frequency, rather than supplying choices that are open to interpretation such as:

1. Very Often.

2. Often.

3. Sometimes.

4. Rarely.

5. Never It is better to quantify the choices, such as.

6. Every Day or More.

7. 2-6 Times a Week.

8. About Once a Week.

9. About Once a Month.

10. Never.

There are other more subtle aspects to consider such as language and culture. Avoid the use of colloquial or ethnic expressions that might not be equally used by all participants. Technical terms that assume a certain background should also be avoided. Leading Questions: A leading question is one that forces or implies a certain type of answer. It is easy to make this mistake not in the question, but in the choice of answers. A closed format question must supply answers that not only cover the whole range of responses, but that are also equally distributed throughout the range. All answers should be equally likely.

Phrasing: Most adjectives, verbs, and nouns in English have either a positive or negative connotation. Two words may have equivalent meaning, yet one may be a compliment and the other an insult. Consider the two words “child-like” and “childish”, which have virtually identical meaning. Child-like is an affectionate term that can be applied to both men and women, and young and old, yet no one wishes to be thought of as childish.

In the above example of “Is this the best CAD interface you have every used? ” clearly “best” has strong overtones that deny the participant an objective environment to consider the interface. The signal sent the reader is that the designers surely think it is the best interface, and so should everyone else. Though this may seem like an extreme example, this kind of superlative question is common practice. A more subtle, but no less troublesome, example can be made with verbs that have neither strong negative or positive overtones. Consider the following two questions: 1.

Do you agree with the Governor’s plan to oppose increased development of wetlands? . Do you agree with the Governor’s plan to support curtailed development of wetlands? They both ask the same thing, but will likely produce different data. One asks in a positive way, and the other in a negative. It is impossible to predict how the outcomes will vary, so one method to counter this is to be aware of different ways to word questions and provide a mix in your questionnaire. If the participant pool is very large, several versions may be prepared and distributed to cancel out these effects.

Embarrassing Questions: Embarrassing questions dealing with personal or private matters should be avoided. Your data is only as good as the trust and care that your respondents give you. If you make them feel uncomfortable, you will lose their trust. Do not ask embarrassing questions.  Hypothetical Questions Hypothetical are based, at best, on conjecture and, at worst, on fantasy. I simple question such as:. If you were governor, what would you do to stop crime? This forces the respondent to give thought to something he may have never considered. This does not produce clear and consistent data representing real opinion.

Do not ask hypothetical questions. Prestige Bias: Prestige bias is the tendency for respondents to answer in a way that make them feel better. People may not lie directly, but may try to put a better light on themselves. For example, it is not uncommon for people to respond to a political opinion poll by saying they support Samaritan social programs, such as food stamps, but then go on to vote for candidates who oppose those very programs. Data from other questions, such as those that ask how long it takes to learn an interface, must be viewed with a little skepticism.

People tend to say they are faster learners than they are. There is little that can be done to prevent prestige bias. Sometimes there just is no way to phrase a question so that all the answers are noble. The best means to deal with prestige bias is to make the questionnaire as private as possible. Telephone interviews are better than person-to-person interviews, and written questionnaires mailed to participants are even better still. The farther away the critical eye of the researcher is, the more honest the answers.

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