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Creating a questionnaire – what really matters

Need help creating a questionnaire? No problem. We show you what to look out for. Professional tips included

You need empirical data for your scientific work? A frequently requested tool here is often the questionnaire. But how to create this actually and what should you pay attention to? In this article we will show you how to create your questionnaire in record time – and in compliance with all the necessary specifications. Let’s go!

What must a questionnaire contain?

First things first: The point of a scientific questionnaire is that a specific research question exists or selected theses are to be examined more closely with the help of the questions formulated in the questionnaire. The more precisely the questions are formulated, the better the quality of the answers that can be expected.

But before you can start creating the questionnaire, you should of course first know exactly what aspects it should cover. Here is an overview:

1. introduction as well as description of the survey objective

First, briefly describe why you are conducting the survey and try togain the trust of the participants.

  1. Filling instructions

Here you should describe exactly how the questions are to be answered and how the structure of your questionnaire is designed. It’s best to add an example of how to answer the questions here.

  1. Main part

The main section consists of the individual questions that you have previously selected – it is the “heart” of your questionnaire.

4. Demographic information

These questions are somewhat more sensitive and should not be asked at the very beginning of the questionnaire, as this may scare off some participants. This involves specific information on gender, age (or age group), occupation and income.

  1. Acknowledgement

At the end, you should thank the respondents and – only if this is allowed within the framework of your scientific work – possibly leave room for their comments.

Quantitative and qualitative research

Surely you have heard of the terms qualitative and quantitative research. Both types can in principle find a place in a questionnaire. But what exactly is the difference?

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is the process of collecting non-numerical data that helps you understand the deeper meaning behind a topic. It can help you decipher the motivations, thought processes, and opinions of people experiencing a particular problem or situation. The answers here are rather unstructured, but help to find out exactly, what a certain group of people thinks and feels about a certain subject area. Mostly open questions are asked, which cannot be answered with yes/no or a standardized answer option. Furthermore, qualitative research methods are mostly used when a new hypothesis is to be tested. The results of the survey are evaluated and interpreted at the end.

Here's an example: a student wants to find out why more and more of his fellow students are moving back in with their parents. The individual answers from the questionnaire help to identify the motivations behind them. So this is about the "why?" behind a particular situation.

Quantitative research

Quantitative research, on the other hand, is quite different: The basis for this is a representative sample (more on this in a moment). Quantitative research methods involve gathering as many facts and data as possible , mostly using closed-ended questions or multiple-choice options. Once the data have been collected, they are of course also analyzed and reported numerically (in percentage points, for example). The results are then interpreted and show correlations.

Here's an example: You want to find out what percentage of people between the ages of 15 and 25 spend more than three hours a day on their smartphone and create a detailed questionnaire to do so.

What is a representative sample?

As mentioned in the upper section, especially in the context of quantitative research, we talk about a representative sample. This involves extrapolating a small number of participants to a larger one (this larger group is called the population).

How large this population should be is not easy for many to estimate – after all, it should be large enough to be statistically relevant. However, a representative sample that is too large is time-consuming and often cost-intensive, so in the end the decision is up to you, However, the guideline is around 100 participants.

How do I create a scientific questionnaire?

In any case, you should plan your scientific questionnaire well and focus on the right questions. You should also weigh whether you need only qualitative or also quantitative oriented questions to get to your goal. For example, you can do it this way:

Find your research question (focus on: hypothesize or confirm?).
Formulate your questions
Cluster your questions into specific topics.
Consider testing the questionnaire in advance and revising it depending on the feedback received

Also make sure that the Do not make the questionnaire too longso that it is not simply aborted in the middle.

Which question variants do you prefer?

As mentioned earlier, you have the option to ask either open or closed questions. Both have their advantages and disadvantages: The subjective answers from qualitative research methods are easy to understand, but difficult to scale. To that end, results from quantitative research methods provide numerical results that, while easier to interpret, are often sufficient to understand the big picture.

If your research question allows it, you can also work with the so-called with both methods If your research question allows it, you can also work with the so-called “Mixed Methods” , as long as there are no objections from your supervisors. That way, you’ll end up with a much clearer picture.

We are sure that it will be much easier for you to create a scientific questionnaire for your bachelor or master thesis – and we wish you good luck!


Edited at: December 7, 2022

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