In drafting questions for your construction research survey there are a number of different techniques to consider. Questionnaires should be carefully worded so that the necessary information is collected to fulfil your construction research objectives. The order of questions is also important. The questions at the beginning of your survey should be interesting, simple and non-threatening to gain the confidence of the respondent. The structure and flow of your survey should be carefully considered. In this blog we provide an introduction to building survey questions that yield the results you are looking for.
Are you getting responses from the correct sample?
Start with a qualification step in your survey. A disqualifier question at the beginning of your construction survey ensures the respondent is eligible to participate in your survey. This helps ensure you garner answers from the correct sample. For example “Are you responsible for the purchase of floor coverings?”
It is also important to have a question that provides classification information. This question often appears at the end of the survey and allows for further qualification on the respondents role, adding depth to your research findings. For example “Which of the following sectors do you work in primarily?”
Are you looking for quantitative or qualitative data?
Common question terminology for a survey is the closed question, sometimes referred to as a pre-coded question, where the respondent is prompted to choose an answer from a given list. A dichotomous question is where only two alternatives are provided, such as agree/disagree or yes/no. In this instance the words “always,” “all,” “every,” “ever,” etc. should be avoided in the wording of the question.
The data gathered from closed questions can often be analysed quantitatively, so provide practical evaluations explaining respondent attitudes, behaviour, and/or performance.
An open question allows the participant to provide a free text answer, this is an unprompted answer, drawing from their own experience. This question is sometimes referred to as a subjective question. An open question can also be a discussion question, where the respondent can share all that comes to mind, answering the question in their own words.
If you ask an open question then you may wish to follow-up with a clarifying question. This question is a probing question that asks participants to further explain their response.
Responses to open questions are often referred to as qualitative, as they are had to quantify or analyis quantitatively. Focus groups, interviews, and open-ended questions are all forms of qualitative research, where subjective responses are essential.
Quantitative research is often used to substantiate the findings from qualitative research. Both elements, in their own way, are beneficial in providing evidence to inform research objectives. It is important to gain the right balance so they complement each other. Often a closed question will be followed by an open question which gathers more qualitative information.
Are your questions loaded?
Avoid leading questions, where all or part of the answer is suggested in the way the question is worded, such as “Why do you consider the competitor’s product to be inferior?”. On the whole strive for unbiased questions, where the wording is carefully considered, so not to influence the respondent’s opinions. Another question to avoid is the double-barrelled type, where you ask the respondent to answer two questions at once, causing confusion and poor data analysis.
For more detailed qualitative or subjective responses you may want to consider including disguised questions, where the respondent is unaware of the true purpose of the question. Another technique is hidden issue questioning, utilised as part of in-depth interviews, to identify significant personal views that would otherwise not be revealed by using a more direct approach.
Is the order of your construction survey questions resulting in bias?
The order you ask questions can have an influence. It is best practice to ask general questions prior to specific questions. This is known as the funnel approach. It avoids responses to specific questions biasing answers to general questions.
Another element to consider is the flow of questions for the respondent. You may wish to use a filter question to ensure the respondent meets the criteria for subsequent questions. This can also be referred to as a branching question, where the respondent is directed to a particular survey section depending on the answer given. This is referred to as skip pattern.
When using closed questions, where the respondent is asked to select their answer from a given list, list order bias can sometimes occur. This is where the idea of primacy or recency has an influence, so the respondent’s recall is weaker towards the middle of the list. In cases where the same or similar list of possible responses is repeated, the list order could be rotated to avoid biased responses.
Finally, keep your questionnaire as short as possible. Otherwise your respondents will lose interest and the final segment of responses will be more about bringing things to a close than providing considered opinions.
Have you road tested your construction survey questions?
Once you are happy with your survey it is important to conduct a pilot or test-run, to assess the effectiveness of your survey. This is when your questionnaire is tried on a statistically small group to identify any unforeseen problems. This vital step confirms the methodology and sample are correct. From this you can refine your research project, to improve its accuracy and efficiency.
Putting the time and effort into building a well structured survey is critical to ensure the success of your construction research. Without careful consideration survey questions can result in misleading, biased information, causing your research to be flawed. Invest the time in the wording of your questions, order and flow. Your survey should then be intuitive to complete, resulting in a good level of respondents and healthy data.