Design and Evaluation of Survey Questions


Design and evaluation of survey questions is a fundamental aspect in social science. Questionnaires have been extensively used in many important areas such as decennial censuses, elections, health research, public policy, customer satisfaction, and economic research. As such, survey questionnaires play a critical role in gathering information used to inform public policy decisions, evaluating social programs, testing social behavior theories, assessing educational programs and progress, and measuring public opinion. Although there are elements critical for surveys related to sampling techniques, questionnaire design and testing techniques are fundamental components for any survey study. While survey questionnaire design may look simple from afar, writing effective questions requires understanding of cognitive, psychological, and communication principles and the associated testing that must be undertaken before they can be implemented. In that sense, this entry presents an overview of fundamental elements on questionnaire design and testing. The entry offers essential theoretical foundations to assist questionnaire design illustrated with multiple examples. It starts with a description of vital elements, followed by a discussion of conceptualization of survey questions and a review of cognitive psychology theories, communication, and visualization principles. A discussion of common response effects in survey question is also presented. This entry offers practical guidance for different types of survey questions including knowledge, attitudinal, behavioral, and demographic questions. It concludes with a brief discussion of useful testing methods for survey questionnaires.

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