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Survey Questionnaire Construction

Elizabeth Martin

KEY WORDS: questionnaire design, response error, question wording and context effects, standardization, recall, pretesting


This article provides a basic introduction to the design of survey questionnaires. Three theoretical frameworks provide different ways for thinking about the question and answer process: as a standardized interview, as a series of cognitive tasks, and as a conversation. The article discusses question wording, question context and order, response categories and scales, and strategies for addressing problems of recall and retrieval. Finally, it summarizes tools for pretesting and evaluating questions, including expert appraisal, think-aloud interviews, behavior coding, respondent debriefing, vignettes, and split-sample experiments. Selected readings are suggested for further reading

CITATION: Elizabeth Martin. 2005. “Survey Questionnaire Construction.” Pp. 723-732 in Encyclopedia of Social Measurement, Vol. 3. Elsevier.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: December 21, 2006
Last revised: December 21, 2006

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010