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Market Research


Designing Research Instruments

The most common research instrument is the questionnaire. Keep these tips in mind when designing your market research questionnaire.

When market research goes wrong, it's usually the result of a poorly designed market research questionnaire.
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When designing market research instruments, follow these market research tips to ensure that you get the best possible results:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Include instructions for answering all questions included on the survey.
  • Begin the survey with general questions and move towards more specific questions.
  • Keep each question brief.
  • If the questionnaire is completed by the respondent and not by an interviewer or survey staff member, remember to design a questionnaire that is graphically pleasing and easy to read.
  • Remember to pre-test the questionnaire. Before taking the survey to the printer, ask a few people-such as regular customers, colleagues, friends or employees-to complete the survey. Ask them for feedback on the survey's style, simplicity and their perception of its purpose.
  • Mix the form of the questions. Use scales, rankings, open-ended questions and closed-ended questions for different sections of the questionnaire. The "form" or way a question is asked may influence the answer given. Basically, there are two question forms: closed-end questions and open-end questions.

Close-End Questions in Market Research Surveys

With close-end questions, respondents choose from predefined answers that are included on the questionnaire. Types of close-end questions include:

  • Multiple choice questions that offer respondents the ability to answer "yes" or "no" or choose from a list of several answer choices.
  • Scale questions that ask respondents to rank their answers or measure their answer at a particular point on a scale. For example, a respondent may have the choice to rank their feelings towards a particular statement. The scale may range from "Strongly Disagree", "Disagree" and "Indifferent" to "Agree" and "Strongly Agree."

Open-End Questions in Market Research Surveys

With open-end questions, market research survey respondents answer questions in their own words. Having completely unstructured questions on your market research questionnaire allows respondents to answer any way they choose. Types of open-end questions include:

  • Word association questions that ask respondents to state the first word that comes to mind when a particular word is mentioned.
  • Sentence, story or picture completion questions that ask respondents to complete partial sentences, stories or pictures in their own words. For example, a question for commuters might read: "My daily commute between home and office is _____ miles and takes me an average of ______ minutes. I use the following mode of transportation: _______."

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