To write a survey or questionnaire, you want to cover every possibility and avoid being misunderstood. Make sure you know what information you're after and make it easy for your subjects to help you find it.
Step 1: Prepare information Prepare by defining the issues you are exploring and the objectives for the questionnaire. Clarify specifically what you want answered, eliminating generalizations, so that you can draw reliable data.
Step 2: Design questions Design succinct and unambiguous questions with familiar words, and no abbreviations or double negatives. Be specific about timing, for instance, by stipulating "Every three hours" instead of "Often."
TIP: Open-format questions invite free-wheeling responses that tend to be subjective. Closed-format questions, like multiple choice, are easier to tabulate and track for useful information.
Step 3: Separate questions Separate questions rather than making them dependent on previous or subsequent questions. Dependent questions can confuse, alienate, and add a level of uncertainty in your findings.
Step 4: Do not lead Avoid writing a survey or questionnaire that uses leading questions that, intentionally or not, preserve the likelihood of a certain result. Offer clearly distinct choices.
Step 5: Encompass responses Ask questions that anticipate and encompass all possible responses.
TIP: Expanding multiple choice surveys beyond four or five will dilute the results.
Step 6: Organize Group the questions logically. Make them simple, direct, and unthreatening. If someone suspects an agenda, they will not answer truthfully.
Step 7: Test survey Test your questionnaire or survey on a small but similar group before starting the official study. Get feedback about how questions were interpreted and suggestions on how to fix problems. Revise the survey based on your results, and you will be on your way to creating a clear study.
FACT: Gallup found a 12 percent increase in voters who call themselves Independents between elections in 2007, when their numbers rose to 37 percent of the voting public, more than either Democrats or Republicans.