I’m teaching Questionnaire Design again this summer at the University of Michigan’s Summer Institute in Survey Research Techniques. I have a really diverse group of students: three of them work at the Census Bureau, one is the Chief of Obstetrics at a major hospital, one is a Public Health PhD student doing research with transgender youth…I could go on. I LOVE teaching this class, and especially working with students as they design their own questionnaires. Most of them are taking the class to help with a questionnaire they’re writing, either for a dissertation or some professional endeavor. And while I drop a lot of knowledge about scale development and techniques for asking sensitive questions and methods of pre-testing, some of the wisest things I say are the simplest:
1. Your respondents will never care about your questionnaire as much as you do. Make it easy for them.
2. Your respondents are you doing you a favor! Be nice to them.
3. If you’re doing online research, you’re doing mobile research. (stole this gem from the AAPOR Emerging Technologies Task Force report— as many as one in four respondents to web surveys take them on a mobile device!)
4.There are always trade-offs.
5. Questionnaire design is an art AND a science.