Questionnaires: Meaning and Types

A questionnaire is a form prepared and distributed to respondents secure responses to certain questions. It is a device for securing answers questions by using a form which the respondent fills by himself. It is a systematic compilation of questions that are submitted to a sample drawn the population from which information is desired. It is an important instrument in normative survey research, being used to gather information from widely scattered sources. The questionnaire procedure normally comes into use where one cannot readily see personally all of the people from whom he desires responses or where there is no particular reason to see them personally.

Purposes of questionnaire in research are two fold:

  1. To collect information from the respondents who are scattered in a vast area and
  2. To achieve success in collecting reliable and dependable data.

Types of Questionnaire

There are diverse forms of questionnaire used in research. These are discussed briefly here.

  • Structured and Non-structured Questionnaires: The structured questionnaire contains definite, concrete and direct questions, whereas non-structured questionnaire may consist of partially completed questions or statements. A non-structured questionnaire is often used as the interview guide, which is non-directive. The interviewer possesses only a blueprint of the enquiries and he is largely free to arrange the form or statements of the questions. The enquiries framed in a general form beforehand are giving a specific form during the actual process of interview.
  • Closed Form and Open Form The questions that call for short or check responses are known as restricted or closed form type. This provide for making a yes or no, a short response, or checking an item from a list of given responses. It restricts the choice of response for the respondent. He has simply to select a response out of supplied responses and has not to frame his response in his own way. It is easy to fill out, takes less time, keeps the respondent on the subject, is relatively more objective, more acceptable and convenient to the respondent, and is fairly easy to tabulate and analyze. The open form, open-end or unrestricted type questionnaire calls for a free response in the respondent’s own words. The respondent – frames and supplies his own response. No clues are provided. It probably provides for greater depth of response. The subject reveals his mind, gives his frame of reference arid possibly the reasons for his responses. This type of item is sometimes difficult to interpret, tabulate and summarize in the research report. When the respondent is allowed freedom of response his expressions-may take any unique direction which may not find any uniformity with oilier responses.
  • The mixed questionnaire. The mixed questionnaire consists of both close-end and open-end type questions. For social research, this method is very useful. Many questionnaires include both open and closed type items. Each type has its specific merits and limitations and the research worker has to decide which type is more likely to supply the information he wants.
  • Fact and Opinion Questionnaires: Questionnaire are also classified as: (1) Questionnaire of fact, which requires certain information of facts from the respondent without any reference to his opinion or attitude about them, and (2) Questionnaire of opinion and attitude in which the informant’s opinion, attitude or preference regarding some phenomena is sought.
  • Pictorial and Verbal Questionnaires: In the pictorial questionnaire, pictures are used to promote interest in answering questions. It is used extensively in studies of social attitudes and prejudices in children or illiterate persons. In a pictorial questionnaire, the selected alternative answers in the form of pictures are given and the respondent is required to tick the picture concerned. This questionnaire may be very useful for collecting data in a developing country like India, specially from the rural masses who are mostly illiterate and less knowledgeable. The serious limitation of this questionnaire is that it is lengthy in form. Also it is highly expensive. Verbal questionnaire uses words and numbers only. It is the usual form meant for literate respondents.

In the questionnaire technique, great reliance is placed on the respondent’s verbal report for data on the stimulus experiences in which he is exposed and for knowledge of his behavior. The questionnaire is effective only when the respondent is able or willing to express his reactions clearly. A good questionnaire can elicit cooperation of the respondent to get frank answers on almost any subject, even such personal matters as sex and income. Thus, it is clear that the respondent can judge the study only by what he can see. The questionnaire, by its very nature, is an impersonal technique and it is several pieces of paper appeals/persuades the respondent that he ought to participate.

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