The design of a questionnaire will depend on whether the researcher wishes to collect exploratory information (i.e. qualitative information for the purposes of better understanding or the generation of hypotheses on a subject) or quantitative information (to test specific hypotheses that have previously been generated).

Exploratory questionnaires: If the data to be collected is qualitative or is not to be statistically evaluated, it may be that no formal questionnaire is needed. For example, in interviewing the female head of the household to find out how decisions are made within the family when purchasing breakfast foodstuffs, a formal questionnaire may restrict the discussion and prevent a full exploration of the woman’s views and processes. Instead one might prepare a brief guide, listing perhaps ten major open-ended questions, with appropriate probes/prompts listed under each.

Formal standardised questionnaires: If the researcher is looking to test and quantify hypotheses and the data is to be analysed statistically, a formal standardised questionnaire is designed. Such questionnaires are generally characterised by:


· prescribed wording and order of questions, to ensure that each respondent receives the same stimuli· prescribed definitions or explanations for each question, to ensure interviewers handle questions consistently and can answer respondents’ requests for clarification if they occur

· prescribed response format, to enable rapid completion of the questionnaire during the interviewing process…more