Why do some questionnaires or surveys suck? This seems to be the most boring method to get data from people. Usually part of academic world, questionnaires and surveys are just… not engaging. I’m saying this because since I started my PhD, I’ve been interviewed, answered to questionnaires and had to publish some questions. However the feedback is always terrible. People just think this is really a waste of time – even if it will take 5 minutes. It’s like a nightmare.

Books say that offering prizes or rewards to have more people answering to your questions could work. Well, it could, but actually it doesn’t. Maybe after a few questionnaires you will have to be rich to give people money or other material prizes.

You can try to use your friends to answer the questionnaires for you – they will make you this favor. But, again, this is just friendship. In the end they will think, well “you owe me a beer”, or “that was really boring, I’ve done it just because you’re my friend”. Hopefully they stay friends after it.

That brings us to this magical word: engagement. Well, so we are not talking about marketing strategy at the moment. The meaning of engagement here is to call people’s attention to one cause and make them do something for you. It doesn’t sound simple. Try to remember when you wanted someone to do something for you – you normally give something in return, right?

But why we just don’t do that because it could be meaningful? That’s the point that we need to come to. It is important to us (specially us from the academia) to make things relevant to people.

So if you want to make a good questionnaire, there are a few things that you need to consider:

1. Make it meaningful to people
Explain the main purpose of the questionnaire. You don’t need to give money or a prize. The motivation should be the idea of collaboration.

2. People are not numbers
You are dealing with people not an excel. Talk to them, in their language. If your sample is young, why not making it more interactive?

3. Talk to you public
Use the right words. You don’t need to be so formal or not too informal, but you need to know who are the people you are asking questions. This is simple and it doesn’t take time. If you don’t know your public, you can’t create a good questionnaire.

4. Make it look great
No one likes big questionnaires. I could quote lots of researches about it. We just know. So, if your questionnaire is big, at least, try to make it breathe! White spaces, please. Good typography (readable).

5. Be objective
Please do not make rounds and rounds about the content. They will not read. Be objective, and strict to the point.

6. Give feedback
“I’m giving you my data, and what are you going to do with that?” – Imagine if you’re giving inputs about some subject and you don’t hear about it in the future? It’s like doing something for nothing (really). Also, do not forget (please) to say how many questions people need to ask. They want to know. This is important.

7. Make them care about your research
Now this could be difficult, but just let think. How would you make people listen to your research questions? Well, just make them understand your thoughts and ideas. Explain in a few words what are you looking for and how people are important to you (Yes, they are very very very important).

8. In other words, make it user-friendly!
Nielsen already said: “Engagement requires usability”. So why do we still make the same mistakes why making a questionnaire?

Remember, people do not have time. We live in a world where everything is online, fast, quick and full of information. This is why we need to understand people and care about them too!

However, I won’t leave this post without any links. So, please if you need, some good websites created tools for surveys that are really useful. However, do not forget: you’re the one to provide the content and the flow of the questionnaire. So choose well your tools. Or just do not use questionnaires for everything. What do you think?

Some tools

photo credit: Exam via photopin (license)

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