The printed questionnaire should appear attractive and professional. It should be neatly typed and free of spelling errors. Respondents should find it easy to identify the questions and the response alternatives to the questions. Leave enough space between questions so people do not become confused when reading the questionnaire. If you have a particular scale format, such as a 5-point rating scale, use it consistently. Do not change from 5- to 4- to 7-point scales, for example.
It is also a good idea to carefully consider the sequence in which you will ask your questions. In general, it is best to ask the most interesting and important questions first to capture the attention of your respondents and motivate them to complete the survey. Roberson and Sundstrom (1990) obtained the highest return rates in an employee attitude survey when important questions were presented first and demographic questions were asked last. In addition, it is a good idea to group questions together when they address a similar theme or topic. Doing so will make your survey appear more professional, and your respondents will be more likely to take it seriously.
Before actually administering the survey, it is a good idea to give the questions to a small group of people and have them think aloud while answering them. Page 143The participants might be chosen from the population being studied, or they could be friends or colleagues who can give reasonable responses to the questions. For the think-aloud procedure, you will need to ask the individuals to tell you how they interpret each question and how they respond to the response alternatives. This procedure can provide valuable information that you can use to improve the questions. (The importance of pilot studies such as this is discussed further in Chapter 9.)
There are two ways to administer surveys. One is to use a written questionnaire, either printed or online, wherein respondents read the questions and indicate their responses on a form. The other way is to use an interview format. An interviewer asks the questions and records the responses in a personal verbal interaction. Both questionnaires and interviews can be presented to respondents in several ways. Let’s examine the various methods of administering surveys.