Influence of Questioning Process: A major limitation of the questionnaire method is the effect of the questioning process on the results obtained. The situation in which a person is questioned about routine actions is an artificial one at best. As a result, respondents may furnish reports quite different from the facts.
If the true answer to a question would be embarrassing or damaging to the ego, some respondents will manufacture an answer. Whereas respondents may answer accurately such questions as whether or not they attend professional football games or what brand of washing machine they have, they may tend to modify answers to questions on their income or the magazines to which they subscribe. One study found that beer consumption as reported by consumers was considerably less than sales by brewers. When the approach to the problem was changed to obtain beer purchases, such purchases reported by consumers exceeded reported beer drinking by 37.6 percent consumers reporting purchases of food and drug items by brand reported 45 percent more purchases of the best known national brands than was known to be the case, but 62 percent less purchasing of leading chain store brands.
Often respondents attempt to give answers that they think will please the interviewer. For example, if respondents know the product for which a particular survey is being made, the percentage reporting use of that product tends to be higher than otherwise. Some respondents use the interview as an occasion to amuse or astonish the interviewers or reader of the questionnaire.
It is possible to classify questionnaire studies on a variety of bases. Three such bases which are of importance are (1) the degree to which the questionnaire is formalized or structured; (2) the disguise or lack of disguise of the objectives of the questionnaire; and (3) the communication method used. The first two of these bases are considered together.
Questionnaire studies can be conducted either with or without formal lists of questions to each interview as it progresses or perhaps elicit responses by indirect methods, such as showing pictures on which the respondent comments. The process of following a prescribed sequence of specific questions is referred to as structured study while the other is non-structured. Questionnaires can be constructed so that the objective is clear to the respondent (non-disguised); or they can be constructed so as to disguise the objective. Using these two bases of classification, four types of studies can be distinguish as shown below
Types of Questionnaire Studies:
Examples: Does your family own piano?
Some focus groups and depth interviewers
Example: Ask respondent(s) to discuss what they think when canned soup is mentioned
Some attitude measurements
Example: Which of the following eat a lot, and which a little oatmeal: Farmers, Movies actors etc.
Some projective techniques
Examples: Nescafe example
Structured, Non-disguised Questioning:
Most questionnaire studies made in marketing research are of the first type they are structured and are not disguised. If the sales manager for a musical instrument company wants to find out how many and what type of people play various types of instruments, a formal list of questions may be set up that asks directly about the ownership and playing of various instruments. Each of a selected group of person is then asked this set of questions in the given sequence. Answers are frequently limited to a list of alternatives which is stated or implied. Several questions taken from an actual survey of this type are given below:
Does your family own a Piano?
Yes ____ No___
(If yes, ask):
What type of piano do you have?
Upright ____ Spinet ____ Grand____ Other ___
Did you buy it or was it a gift?
Which members of your family, if any, can now play the piano?
A structured interview of this type produces more reliable results than unstructured interviews. By reducing the chance for interviewers to influence results through different phrasings of questions and even different questions, and through different judgments of answers and what to record, the structured questionnaire products more reliable results that is, if the research project is repeated in the same manner, similar results will be obtained.