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Since my Fellowship with Edelman Berland began, research for me has become a “must do” rather than a “could do” when creating programs for clients. Berland, our research arm, is running an internal campaign with all of Edelman that aims to educate and exchange ideas with our firm’s employees on the ways research can benefit their communications initiatives. Here’s how we’re sharing the basics of writing a simple questionnaire that can become a valuable quantitative research tool.

  1. Work as a Partner. Align your research theme with your client’s overall business objectives so outcomes will complement the communications strategy. Together you can begin to craft the concept, timing and desired findings.
  2. Keep it Simple. Write short, simple, specific questions using as few words as possible. To capture the respondent’s actual beliefs, it’s best to write a clear statement that can be responded to without too much deliberation. The more instinctual reaction you receive, the better.
  3. Choose the Best Delivery Method. Today's surveys can be delivered over the computer, in person, on the phone or by mail. Postal surveys can be cheap but responses can be slow. Face-to-face can be expensive but will generate the fullest responses. Web surveys can be cost-effective but inconsistent with response rates. Telephone can be expensive, but will often generate high response rates and will allow for follow-up questions to enhance findings. So, a choice must be made.
  4. Ask the Same Question Twice but in Different Ways. To ensure you are understanding a person’s true opinion on a given topic, it’s smart to ask the same question a couple of times. It will help you avoid the respondent bias that inevitably presents itself with each survey, and gives you a better chance at finding the person's true opinion on a given topic.
  5. Be Selective From the Start. Although you may feel a person is the right one to take the survey, it’s best to ask a series of screening questions to make sure. Position those at the beginning so you're not wasting anyone's time. Examples would be demographic benchmarks, such as salary, education and geography, etc.
  6. Pilot the Questionnaire. By testing the survey with a small population, you’ll determine if it’s set to do what you need it to do. This soft launch enables you to determine whether some questions may need to paraphrased, reordered or removed.

Write an effective questionnaire and you will increase your chance to uncover meaningful findings.

Ricco Wang is a fellow in London, from Edelman Beijing.