How to Design Data Collection Instruments for Research in Business

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Questionnaires require effective design to be accurate.
Questionnaires require effective design to be accurate. (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Business research places much importance on understanding consumer behavior, attitudes and preferences. Those conducting research in business perform data collection through instruments such as surveys or questionnaires. To collect accurate data, researchers must put much thought into the design of the instruments used to collect this data.

Determine the specific information needed. State your objectives clearly, and plan what information needs to be collected through your instrument.

Create an outline. This outline should include the pieces of information needed. Each section of the outline will represent one question to collect this information.

Show stakeholders the outline for revision. The clients, sponsors and other interested persons should be involved in the design of your instrument. Allow them to review the outline and give any suggestions for revision.

Revise the outline as per the stakeholders’ suggestions.

Decide on the type of questions suitable for your data collection instrument. The most common types of questions are open-ended questions, checklists, two-way questions, multiple-choice questions and ranking scale questions.

Word the questions in an unbiased way. Think hard about the purpose of each question before putting it into words. Improperly worded questions can yield inaccurate results.

Check the reading level. Show the instrument to new parties in your target audience and confirm that these parties can understand all questions on the instrument. If there are portions that cause confusion, revise these areas.

Run a pilot study. Find a small sample of subjects in your target audience and allow them to take the survey or questionnaire. Ask for feedback and suggestions. Revise if needed.

Develop the final version of the instrument. At this point, no more revisions are necessary. However, you should tweak the format of the instrument to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

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References

  • “Data Collection: Planning for and Collecting All Types of Data”; Patricia Phillips, et al.; 2008
  • “Data Collection and Analysis”; Roger Sapsford, et al.; 2006
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