Once the wording of the individual questions has been determined, it is necessary to set them up in some order. The sequence can influence the results obtained.
A questionnaire has three major sections: (1) basic information, (2) classification information and (3) identification information.. As questions pertaining to these sections tend to be of declining interest to the respondent the section are usually put in the order shown. Questions relating to the basic information form the body of the questionnaire. To help in analyzing this information, it is usually necessary to be able to classify respondents on such base as age, sex income, education and nationality. Questions on these points form the classification section. The identification section identifies all parties involved. This includes the name and address of the respondents and the names of such individuals as the interviewer, editor and tabulators. These are used to verify that the actual respondents shown were interviewed and to assign responsibility for and to evaluate the quality of the tasks done.
Opening Questions must win Respondent’s interest:
When respondents agree to be interviewed, they have made a concession – often partly out of curiosity. The questionnaire must capture their interest at once or they may break off the interview. Therefore the first questions should be an interesting one, even if it is necessary to insert a question not strictly needed for the survey. Questions asking the respondents’ opinions are good starters, because everyone likes to think their opinions. In contrast, consider the opening question in a shopping habits survey which was: Who lives here? This could hardly be expected to excite the respondent. Undoubtedly the next few questions were received rather coldly. A study among apartment dwellers started with Do you own a horse? The latter seems sure to create curiosity among most people.
It is also important to make the first few questions particularly simple questions that everyone will be able to answer easily. This builds the confidence of respondents so they feel they can handle the project. If the opening questions stump respondents, they are apt to say something like ‘I don’t know’, ‘I’m not the type of person you should be talking to anyway’ and the interview may be lost.
Place questions Apt to cause difficulty in the body of the questionnaire:
Questions that might embarrass respondents and those that may have little interest for respondents should be well down in the questionnaire so that the questioning process is well established before they are reached. After respondents have answered a number of questions, they are more at ease with the interviews and are less apt to balk at personal questions such as those relating to income, knowledge, ability and status.
Consider Influence of Question on succeeding questions:
In discussing leading questions, it was pointed out how to mention of the product sponsoring the survey would bias answers. Thus, if it is necessary to mention the product specifically in some questions, those questions must be left to the end of the questionnaire.
In another study to test the effect of question sequence a research set up five different question sequences before asking respondents how interested they would be in buying a new product described as a combination pen and pencil selling for 29 cents. One set of respondents was asked their buying interest immediately after the product was described to them, a second set was first asked what advantages they saw in the product; a third set was asked the disadvantages, a fourth was asked both advantages and disadvantages in that order and fifth disadvantages and then advantages.
It is clear that mention of the advantages of the product increased the expressed interest, whereas mention of the disadvantages decreased their interest. Other types of question-sequences bias may be more subtle. Questions should follow one another in some logical order that is, logical to respondents.