Worried About Questionnaire Bias? 3 Guidelines To Ensure Your Quantitative Results Are Valid

The questionnaire for a quantitative study sets the stage for the research and results that will follow – far more than any other step of the process. The most important things to consider when drafting a questionnaire are that every respondent should be able to interpret each question in the same manner and that he or she should feel empowered to answer truthfully without a bias. Here are some important guidelines to consider throughout the drafting process:

1)  Phrase the Questions Correctly and Objectively.

When selecting the wording for a question, the primary objective should be to guarantee that every respondent interprets the question in the same way. For instance, if you ask how often respondents purchase popcorn, but do not specify the frequency you consider to be “often,” they are left to interpret that on their own, which could lead to unreliable results. Removing personal interpretation is crucial when crafting questions.

It is equally important to make sure that you are not priming respondents with the wording you choose. Let’s say I ask, “How important is this feature to you?” By leaving out the alternative “unimportant,” I am priming respondents to answer more positively than if I ask, “How important or unimportant is this feature to you?” Respondents should feel encouraged to answer the question based off of how they genuinely feel, rather than how the study or phrasing is asking them to feel.

2)  Provide Fair, Balanced Answer Choices.

Answer choices in a quantitative study dictate the results more than any other element of a questionnaire. In order to ensure valid results, there should be an even number of positive and negative answer choices in every question. Consider a study where respondents are shown a new packaging design and asked to evaluate its appeal. If the answer choices are “excellent,” “great,” “good,” “average,” and “poor,” the results will most likely show a favorable result, primarily due to the fact that four out of the five choices are positive, which increases the probability of a positive answer being selected.

In order to guarantee that both positive and negative opinions have the same probability of being selected, the answer choices for this appeal question should be something like “very appealing,” “somewhat appealing,” “neither appealing nor unappealing,” “somewhat unappealing,” and “very unappealing.” The “neither appealing nor unappealing” neutral option is critical. Without it, you could be forcing respondents to have an opinion about a product when they genuinely do not have one, which misrepresents their true feelings.

3)  Arrange the Questions to Flow Logically.

Starting broad and narrowing down to the specifics about the subject of the study can limit the bias you could introduce to respondents. Let’s consider that same new packaging design. If the first questions direct respondents’ attention to the slight changes in the design’s wording or colors, its uniqueness, and its believability, and then we ask for initial appeal, we would impact their reactions to the initial appeal of the packaging (which is what they would notice on the shelf as a consumer). Determining which questions need a clear, cold read without the biases introduced by other questions is crucial in structuring your questionnaire in a way that produces the cleanest results.

With online research popularity continuing to grow, spending more time on creating quality questionnaires couldn’t be more important. Implementing these quantitative guidelines can guarantee more quality and useful research results.

Learn more about how you can maximize both your quantitative and qualitative in our detailed infographic today!

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