When a wide geographical coverage is required and a large number of people have to be contacted, the most efficient and convenient method is to collect data through mail/web questionnaires. The Researcher or Surveyor (RS) can send thousands of questionnaires at a comparatively low cost. Since RS cannot seek further clarification as in the case of interviews, RS should take utmost pains in preparing the questionnaire.
The following hints will be of help:
1. Each question should be clearly framed and should seek to elicit the information related to the topic of RS report.
2. It should be precise and not vague. For example, if RS askS, â€œDo you see films regularly,â€ RSâ€™s respondent will not understand what RS means by â€˜regularlyâ€™. And suppose he says â€˜yesâ€™ how will this answer help RS? But if RS says, â€œHow often in a month do you see a movie?â€ he will understand what RS wants to know and his answer will be precise and useful.
3. Avoid leading questions â€“ questions which suggest or anticipate answers and thus conditions or prejudice the respondentâ€™s mind. For example. â€œDo you read The Hindustan Times?â€ is an attempt to lead the respondent. A better question to ask would be, â€œWhich daily newspaper do you read?
4. As in the case of interviews, do not ask any questions which may embarrass the respondent. Questions about sex habits, religious beliefs, personal income etc are better avoided. When RS have to write a report touching on such matters, obtain the consent of the respondent beforehand if possible and keep the information secure and confidential. In all situations avoid asking questions which may hurt the respondentâ€™s self respect pride or ego.
5. Since RS are making a demand on the time of strangers, ensure that questions are easy to answer and the questionnaire is brief and convenient to handle. Leave plenty of space in it for answers. It would be irritating for the respondent to find that he cannot write what he wants. Often questionnaires remain unanswered because of this defect.
6. Arrange RSâ€™s questions in a logical order and get them cyclostyled or printed neatly. Mail the questionnaire in an attractive envelope along with a covering letter, courteously seeking the respondentâ€™s cooperation and help. In many respects this letter should be similar to a sales letter. It should be able to attract the respondentâ€™s attention, make him feel important and induce him to fill in the questionnaire and return it to RS promptly. Courtesy demands that RS should enclose a postage paid envelope for reply.