RESEARCH BRIEF: Questionnaire; Step by Step

by Melissa Brenes-Bastos,

Developing questionnaires had been one difficult task for students around the world, according to Thomas (1999). Developing a survey became an easy process if some steps are followed: step 1: Planning, step 1: Developing the survey, step 3: Obtaining the respondents, step 4: Preparing for data collection, step 5: Collecting the survey data and step 6: Summarizing the survey data.

Step 1, 2 and 3 refers to the success on the project by planning and considering all the elements included as part of the questionnaire, creating the tool that combines all the items necessary for the research in a way that is easy for the respondent and get the sample or the list of respondents that will participate in the research, respectively. (Thomas, 1999)

One of the most important problems in survey research is the nonresponse, which occurs when one of the samples does not respond to the survey. (Stoop, Billiet, Koch & Fitgerald, 2010). Reducing the nonresponse rate is not an easy task, but improving on pretesting and evaluation of questionnaires might help on that mission, that specifically refers to Step 4 of the developing of a questionnaire. Preparations for data collection include pilot testing, which can be develop by many different methods, but basically it includes the process of giving your survey to persons who represent the respondent and then ask them to provide you information about the questionnaire (Where any items unclear? Were the directions clear?, etc.) (Thomas, 1999)

Step 5; collecting the Survey Data, can be better explain by Fowler Jr. (1993), which mentions that a reasonable sequence of events that such happen after sending the first questionnaire are: “(1) About 10 days after the initial mailing, mail all respondents a reminder card, emphasizing the importance of the study and of a high rate of response, (2) About 10 days after the postcard is mailed, mail the remaining nonrespodents a letter again emphasizing the importance of a high rate return and including another questionnaire for those who threw the fist one away and (3) if the response rate is still mot satisfactory, probably the best next step is to call nonrespondents on the telephone”.

And finally Fink & Kosecoff (1985) mention that Step 6; summarizing the survey data, cover basic things such as: 1-Type of survey (interview, self-administered questionnaires, etc.) 2-Date of survey, 3-Sample size and response rate, and 4-Other explanation (sample size, response rate, reliability, etc.).   Off course all the information that is going to be presented from the questionnaire should use tables, diagrams, graphs, pictures, summaries and reports, which help better understand the information resulted from the research questionnaire. (Fink & Kosecoff, 1985)


  • Stoop, I., Billiet, J., Koch, A. & Fitgerald, R. (2010) Improving Survey Response; Lessons learned from the European Social Survey. JohnWiley & Sons, Ltd. 1st Edition. West Sussex, United Kingdom
  • Rothged, J., Willis, G. & Forsyth, B. (2001) Questionnaire Pretesting Methods: Do Different Techniques and Different Organizations Produce Similar Results?. Proceeding of the Annual Meeting of American Statistical Association. Available at:
  • Thomas, S. (1999) Designing Surveys That Work; A step-by-step guide. Corwin Press, INC. Thousand Oaks, California.
  • Fowler, F. Jr. (1993) Survey Research Methods. SAGE Publication, INC. Second Edition, Vol. 1.  Newbury Park, California.
  • Fink, A. & Kosecoff, J. (1985) How to conduct surveys; A step-by-step guide. SAGPublications, INC. Beverly Hills, California