Wisconsin's Public Liberal Arts College

EXSITE! Questionnaire surveys


Continuous Improvement and Planning Team

EXSITE! Questionnaire surveys

Properly done, surveys can provide useful feedback relatively cost-effectively.  They are sometimes conducted by telephone but more frequently by mail or online.  Regular stakeholders will usually respond to mail surveys, but typically, there is a low response rate, often from 10% to 50%.  Consequently you will need to send out many more forms than you hope to get responses.  Even so, it is often hard to know how representative your actual sample is.

There is a greater likelihood that stakeholders will respond to telephone surveys, but there is also some resistance to the intrusive nature of this method, largely because they tend to be the tools of trade of relatively anonymous marketing companies.

Questionnaires can take many forms, using checklists, rating scales, multiple choice questions, open-ended questions and so on.  Many questionnaires contain a combination of several different question types.  Each type of question will yield different data, so it is important to be clear about the kind of information you want from it and how you will use it before you design your questionnaire.

Advantages of questionnaires

  • Responses can easily be coded if they are in response to closed questions
  • Information can be collected relatively quickly
  • Much larger samples can be surveyed
  • Questionnaires can be cheaper to administer and process than other methods
  • A standardized approach can be used
  • Return rates can be high if there is a captive audience

Disadvantages of questionnaires

  • If there are time delays, faulty or selective remembering can distort data
  • Misinterpretation can occur if questions are poorly designed
  • Open-ended questions are time consuming to process and analyze
  • Boredom and fatigue can reduce the quality of respondents' answers
  • Sometimes there is reluctance to respond
  • Little flexibility is possible once the process has begun  

Adapted from 2004 Monash University ABN 12 377 614 012  Last updated: 23 May 2005 – Maintained by cheq@adm.monash.edu.au


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