A questionnaire is a list of pre-set questions to which the participants are asked to answer. A written questionnaire will require the participant to answer the questions in writing. A spoken questionnaire is an interview.
Closed questionnaires – are very structured with the participant having a few set answers to choose from.
Advantages of closed questionnaires
- Quick to complete
- Data is quantitative so easy to analyse and compute
- They allow comparisons to be made with other sets of data
- The research is easy to repeat
Disadvantages of closed questionnaires
- You cannot explain a questionnaire to a participant so it could be confusing
- You cannot follow up with extra questions to gain richer data
- The participant might not agree with any of the answers they have to choose from
Open-ended questionnaires – are less structured than closed questionnaires. There will normally be a set number of questions, but there is no pre-set choice of answers, so the participant can say whatever they want. This method will often involve an interview rather than written question.
Advantages of open questionnaires
- The participant isn’t limited by set answers, so they can express what they really mean and explain why they think this
- The interviewer can follow up with more questions, meaning you get richer data
- In general you get richer data because the answers will be longer and more in depth
Disadvantages of open questionnaires
- You get qualitative data, which is hard to quantify and analyse
- This makes it hard to compare one set of data with another
- The interviewer has to interpret the data, and they could interpret it differently to how the participant meant it.
Postal or self-complete questionnaires – are when the participant picks up or is sent a questionnaire which they fill out themselves and return by post or via the internet.
Advantages of postal or other self-completion questionnaires
- They are cheap, especially if done over the internet
- Results are obtained quickly
- People can respond whenever they want, not just when an interviewer is present
- Participants are more likely to give personal or embarrassing responses if they have the privacy of a self-completion questionnaire
- There is less risk of interviewer bias
Disadvantages of postal or other self-completion questionnaires
- There is a very low response rate with self-completion questionnaires as there is no real pressure to complete them
- You are likely to get a certain group of people, for example the unemployed or elderly that answer the questionnaire as many other people might be too busy, and so you won’t get a particularly representative sample.
- There is no way of knowing whether the right person actually completed the survey or if someone else did it for them
- The interviewer isn’t there to ask follow up questions and explain questions the participants if they don’t understand