Once your project director helps you determine your research objectives, the next step is to translate them into specific questions.
It’s important to make sure that the questions included in the study will actually help you to achieve your objectives. For example, the common objectives for a typical audience profile study include:
Illustrate purchasing authority
Prove readership of the publication
Learn opinions of various editorial items
Document unduplicated reach
Your project director will keep your specific objectives in mind when drafting the questionnaire, and only include questions that help you meet those objectives. Additional questions increase the chances that respondents will become fatigued and choose not to participate in your survey.
An example of an extraneous question on a survey with the above objectives would be, “Are you male or female?” Since this question doesn’t support any of the above objectives, it shouldn’t be asked. On the other hand, if the objective was to document gender differences in opinion regarding editorial items, the gender question would not only be appropriate, but it would be mandatory.
Resist getting wrapped up in what would be nice to know, but what doesn’t meet your objectives. These additional questions get expensive quickly, don’t impact your objectives, and often drive respondents away.
In addition to making sure your questions address your objectives, your project director will make sure that your questions are clear, do not lead the respondent, and are specific. Survey question writing is more science than art. Efforts are made to use concrete and specific language that enables the respondent to provide information that will address the information needs listed in your objectives.
Finally, when drafting a questionnaire, no question should be asked without a plan for use with the results. Take another look at the gender question. What would you do if your results indicated that 25% of your readers were female? How about 75% female? If you can’t conceptualize what you would do with results to a particular question, you probably shouldn’t be asking the question in the first place.
While developing objectives and translating them into specific questions require some thought, keep in mind that Readex plays a key role in the process, and does much of the thinking and grunt work. More importantly, these exercises set the foundation for your entire study and help prevent you from having gaping information holes in your final report.