This is a WWW page originally created by students (see other credits on this page) but now copied and stored by Steve Draper as part of the CSCLN ATOM.


Questionnaire Design

Using questionaires as a data gathering technique means that it is difficult to generalize about their appropriate uses. However it can be said that the different types of questionnaires available can seriously affect the data gathering process. Two possible responses of questionnaires are open ended and closed. Open ended format is were the respondant is asked to write down the responce to a question in any terms that he or she sees fit. An example of this is that you may ask people to give their reasons for recycling glass bottles and allow them to list as many reasons as they felt they had for recycling. Closed formats require the researcher to have a reasonable idea of the likely responses to items in advance. In the recycling example they would need to provide a list of likely reasons for recycling and ask respondants to indicate which of the reasons applied to them.


Structured interviews involve a fixed set of questions which the researcher asks in a fixed order. Commonly respondants are asked to choose an answer from a fixed series of options given by the interviewer. This form of interview is very similar in form to a closed questionnaire. This type of structure yields information which is easily quantified, ensures comparability of questions accross respondants and makes certain that the necessary topics are included.

In unstructured interviews the researcher has a number of topics to cover but the precise questions and their order are not fixed. The questions develope resultant on the exchanges between the two participants. The interviewee has the freedom to say as much, or as little as he or she chooses to do. With this form of questionnaire the comparability aspect is sacrificied but generally, the data offered is richer.

Feature Checklists

A feature checklist relies primarily on recognition which is superior to methods that rely on recall. It serves to elicit information from the user’s memory. Checklists can be offputting due to their size, as they can be substantial, but in practice we find that users find them easy to fill in.

HCI Discussion

The questions that were posted on the internet were to as follows:

What are the components of a good questionnaire? For example do you favour the usage of prompts, open ended questions...

It was suggested that open ended questions were the only realistic way of designing questionnaires, but it would depend on the goal of the person who set the questionnaire e.g. many questionnaires are designed only to find out if people prefer option a, b or c and not for any realistic or insightful meaning where the usage of an open ended questionnaire would more advantageous...

Most people supported the usage of prompts, mainly for the reason that people can not remember the details of events very well and the prompt assists them. It was also suggested that interviewees can be defensive about their lack of memory recall and the use of prompts can calm them. Prompts also help the interviewee if they are embarrassed about not understanding the terms of the question as the fact that the prompt exists implies that they are not alone in not understanding the question.

However problems can exist with prompts and under certain circumstances a prompt can encourage a person to latch onto an idea which might not be truly representative of their experience. For example a person could be asked about something along the lines of" have you heard of inter relay chat" the prompt could be “it’s to do with the internet” Because the internet is a currently fashionable subject an individual may say- oh I've heard of that when, in fact they have only heard of the prompt. Another worry is that the wording of the prompt can affect the response. An extreme example could be “Are you in favour of bloodsports?“, where the prompt was “the needless murder of sweet little foxes by the evil aristocrary”.

Does the class agree that the possible responses offered are as important as the question involved?

The responses are seen as equally important to the question. There are few things as irritating as filling in a questionnaire and realising that your answer does not fit any of the options and that you are forced to register an opinion which does not match your true instincts. However it is difficult to preempt all possible responses and one person suggested a prototype questionnaire which could be given to a few people to test the validity of the questions and answers.

A questionnaire with fixed responses is easiest to analyse although the usage of these fixed groups can lead to very weak or 'guided' results. For example "Do you find My Golden Cornflakes product a) wonderful b) superb or c) delicious. There is no room for negative responses. This is an extreme example but serves the purpose of illustrating the fact that you must have responses for things you expect, and things that you do not expect.

What are the benefits of interviews versus questionnaires (dialogue vs monologue situations)

It appears that face to face interviews can have good points and bad points. On the positive side it was stated that in a face to face situation the interviewer has the advantage of being able to see facial expressions and 'read' voice inflections which may be different from the stated or politically correct version.

However it is hard to register these responses and the attitudesof the interviewer would also have not be taken into account. The interviewer has theopportunity to ask the question in several separate ways and to see if the interviewee really understands the question or is just answering anything. Notunderstanding the question is an important area in it self, is the question ambiguous? or is the interviewer interviewing the wrong people? The interviewer has an important role here- If the interview is not fully formal they can unintentially or intentionally misinterpret comments.

It can also be understood that the interviewers personal biases and objectives can be brought into the situation. For example I will only choose those who look as if they have time to speak to me, so I will ignore those who look as if they are working as they will be busy- the sample will be biased. Another example is where an individual is not aware of their biases . Even if you are given a hitlist of 'types' to get some people will unconsciously ignore certain groups resulting in an unbalanced sample. It was mentionedthat both the interviewer and the interviewee could feel awkward, especially if one was considerably more senior than the other. The decision on whether to use questionnaires or interviews also depends on the subject material.Some subjects are more sensitive than other and individuals might feel embarrassed about discussing certain topics with strangers.

"Who Did What" and thanks

Scott did the "I am the webmaster stuff", Wendy did the Discussion component and Katrina did the rest!

Thanks to Edward, Paul and Jeffy for innundating us with their thoughts.

Date of creation was the 27th of January, This page is, of course still under construction