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Evaluating a Questionnaire

Evaluating a Questionnaire

Questionnaires stand as pivotal instruments in research, offering a means to glean insights into the opinions and experiences of diverse groups. Notably, ensuring the efficacy of questionnaires hinges on clarity and accessibility, which can be achieved by furnishing respondents with comprehensive instructions and organizing questions under relevant headers (Ebert et al., 2018). Sequencing questions logically, from broad and pertinent inquiries to more specific and optional ones, further enhances comprehension. Crucially, the questionnaire’s design profoundly influences survey data quality. A poorly crafted questionnaire may precipitate issues such as low response rates, sample bias, and measurement errors (Ebert et al., 2018). Researchers should meticulously plan and pretest questionnaires, mitigating potential pitfalls before administering them to the target population. This paper aims to assess the effectiveness of the questionnaire created by the AHRQ, ascertain its utility in fulfilling its intended purpose, and suggest any necessary enhancements.

Understanding Questionnaires

A questionnaire is a versatile and indispensable tool for multifaceted data collection in diverse research endeavours. It is fundamentally aimed at unravelling the intricacies of current scenarios or delving into the causal factors behind specific phenomena or behaviours. Depending on the research’s nature and scope, a questionnaire can encompass a spectrum of questions spanning open-ended, closed-ended, or scaled inquiries (Ebert et al., 2018). This method facilitates systematic and structured information gathering, paving the way for subsequent analysis and interpretation through statistical techniques (Sage Research Methods, n.d.). Beyond its quantitative merits, a questionnaire serves as a window into respondents’ opinions, attitudes, preferences, or satisfaction levels—valuable insights for decision-making and policy formulation. The cost-effectiveness and time efficiency of questionnaires are further underscored, provided they are meticulously designed and administered, ensuring the attainment of meaningful data from a broad and diverse sample of participants.

Crafting an effective questionnaire demands meticulous attention to its wording and structure, ensuring avoidance of double-barreled, ambiguous, or biased questions. Two primary question types—open-ended and closed-ended—populate the questionnaire landscape. Open-ended questions afford respondents the liberty to articulate their views or experiences in their own words, unlocking rich and nuanced insights (Sage Research Methods, n.d.). However, this openness comes at a cost, as these questions can be challenging for respondents to answer comprehensively and accurately, demanding substantial time and effort for coding and analysis. In contrast, closed-ended questions present predefined response options, easing respondent burden and facilitating straightforward comparisons (Connor Desai & Reimers, 2019). Their structured nature enables swift coding and analysis, but this comes at the expense of potentially limiting the depth and range of obtained information (Sage Research Methods, n.d.). When opting for open-ended or closed-ended questions, researchers must judiciously weigh these factors, contemplating the desired depth of insights and the subsequent analysis and interpretation.

Purpose of the Questionnaire by the AHRQ

The survey in question was created by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), an organization dedicated to assisting hospitals in enhancing safety through the cultivation of a culture focused on communication and learning from mistakes. Tailored explicitly for hospital staff, the questionnaire delved into their perceptions of the safety climate within their workplace (Zikmund et al., 2013). The primary goal was to instil a safety culture within healthcare facilities—a culture characterized by shared values, beliefs, and expectations among leaders, clinicians, and staff concerning the significance of safety and quality of care and the corresponding behaviours and actions that reinforce them. By fostering this approach, the questionnaire aimed to not only boost patient safety and staff satisfaction but also to improve overall outcomes and experiences for both patients and staff members.

The questionnaire serves as a valuable instrument in assisting hospitals to cultivate and enhance their patient safety culture. Its multifaceted objectives encompass educating staff on the significance of safety in healthcare, evaluating the current state of safety culture in various units and departments, assessing the impact of safety practices and interventions, and monitoring changes and developments in safety culture over time. Additionally, the questionnaire gauges staff attitudes toward patient safety within their work environment. The overarching purpose is to facilitate the creation of a culture where staff members feel empowered to share insights and learn from mistakes collaboratively (Zikmund et al., 2013). By fostering such an environment, the questionnaire strives to elevate patient safety and staff productivity, thereby contributing to heightened satisfaction levels and improved quality of care for patients and staff alike.

Evaluation of Content and Wording of Questionnaire Questions

The effectiveness of the AHRQ research questionnaire is profoundly tied to the quality and precision of its individual questions. These questions serve as the conduit through which the researcher can extract meaningful insights into the opinions, perceptions, and behaviours of the public. It is imperative that these queries are not only clear and understandable but also concise, as even the most robust random sampling method can yield unreliable data if faced with unclear or inaccurate questions.

Comprising around 50 questions across nine sections, the AHRQ Hospital Questionnaire demonstrated commendable clarity and simplicity in its use of consistent terminology. However, several crucial elements were notably absent, such as a privacy statement, a defined deadline for questionnaire return, and clarification on the voluntary or mandatory nature of the survey. The introduction should ideally encompass clear instructions for correct questionnaire completion and provide avenues for respondents to reach out with questions or concerns. These additional elements are not only vital for bolstering the survey’s validity and reliability but also play a pivotal role in enhancing response rates and fostering trust among respondents.

The predominant format of the AHRQ survey questions is closed-ended, providing respondents with a predefined set of response options to choose from. This design choice offers advantages in terms of ease of response and analysis, reducing variability and ambiguity in the collected data. While closed-ended questions facilitate straightforward analysis, they may potentially restrict the depth and richness of gathered information (Bee & Murdoch-Eaton, 2016). Acknowledging this, the survey strategically incorporates an open-ended question at its conclusion, allowing respondents to articulate their views and suggestions in their own words. This inclusive approach ensures that valuable insights beyond the confines of closed-ended options are captured.

The survey employs various question types within the closed-ended category, including multiple-choice, determinant-choice, and frequency questions. Multiple-choice questions present a list of options for respondents to choose the most relevant to their situation. Determinant-choice questions necessitate a single, exclusive response without permitting multiple or partial answers. Frequency questions prompt respondents to specify the occurrence frequency of an event or behaviour using a fixed scale of response options. Most questions adhere to a concise five-response option structure, enhancing respondent recall and comparison. Simultaneously, some questions employ a binary yes-or-no response format, simplifying the respondent experience. Throughout, the survey maintains a commitment to clarity and neutrality in language, ensuring respondents can easily comprehend and connect with the queries.

Response Forms in the Questionnaire

The questionnaire response forms present challenges in terms of user-friendliness and interpretability. The excessive length of the form may discourage respondents from completing it, suggesting a potential enhancement in response rates and data quality with a more concise survey. Furthermore, the questionnaire exhibits issues of vagueness and ambiguity in its inquiries. For instance, a broad query regarding opinions on the hospital’s opportunities to improve patient safety lacks specificity. Refined questions, such as evaluating the hospital’s efforts to prevent medication errors or satisfaction with patient safety training, would better elicit meaningful responses.

Subsequently, wording poses another concern within the questionnaire, particularly in question 12 of Section A, which carries a negative and confusing tone. Question 12 in Section A states: “When an event is reported, it feels like the person is being written up, not the problem.” This question is confusing and negative, and it may discourage the respondents from reporting errors or incidents. A possible alternative would be: “How comfortable do you feel reporting an event or a near miss?” or “How fair and constructive is the feedback you receive after reporting an event?” The questionnaire’s questions should aim for clarity, specificity, and a positive tone to encourage respondents to openly share their experiences and suggestions.

Level of Measurement

The clarity and interpretability of the questionnaire response forms present challenges for respondents. Utilizing an ordinal scale of measurement, the questionnaire employs a ranking system from strongly agree to strongly disagree to assess the degree of constructs such as satisfaction, agreement, or importance. While this scale allows for the comparison of responses and measurement of differences, it lacks information on the magnitude and direction of these differences. Further, to enhance the measurement process, the researcher should craft relevant, straightforward questions, ensuring alignment with research objectives and required data types. Consideration of the timing and frequency of questionnaire administration is crucial (Fosnacht et al., 2017). Employing a longitudinal design involves posing the same questions to the same respondents at different time points to evaluate changes over time. Alternatively, a cross-sectional design simultaneously poses different questions to diverse respondents from the same population, facilitating comparisons across the population. Maintaining consistent and clear language throughout questions while avoiding repetition or contradiction is essential for sustaining a comparative framework (Fosnacht et al., 2017). A well-designed questionnaire, attuned to research objectives and employing suitable measurement scales, ensures meaningful data collection and analysis.

Sequence of Questions in the Questionnaire

The AHRQ survey was initiated with an introductory query prompting participants to share insights about their existing work environment or organizational unit to establish a connection. Toward the survey’s conclusion, additional background questions delved into participants’ relevant work experience. Significantly, questions were strategically grouped based on safety culture components, and the questionnaire purposefully avoided simplistic yes or no inquiries. The deliberate inclusion of an open-ended question at the assessment’s conclusion encouraged participants to provide additional details.

The arrangement of questions holds paramount importance in questionnaire design. Careful consideration must be given to how survey items are presented once produced. The sequence of questions becomes pivotal when observing trends and patterns (Fosnacht et al., 2017). To maximize efficacy, maintaining consistency in the premise of each inquiry is crucial. Notably, altering the framework of a question may introduce uncertainty. Like a conversation, a questionnaire should be structured around a specific theme, unfolding in a logical sequence. Moreover, initiating simple and intriguing questions captures respondents’ interest, preventing disengagement from a questionnaire laden with challenging queries. Striking a balance ensures participant engagement throughout the questionnaire, avoiding overwhelming them with overly complex questions.


Bee, D. T., & Murdoch-Eaton, D. (2016). Questionnaire design: the good, the bad, and the pitfalls. Archives of Disease in Childhood – Education & Practice Edition, 101(4), 210–212.

Connor Desai, S., & Reimers, S. (2019). Comparing the use of open and closed questions for Web-based measures of the continued-influence effect. Behaviour Research Methods, 51(1). Springer.

Ebert, J. F., Huibers, L., Christensen, B., & Christensen, M. B. (2018). Paper- or web-based questionnaire invitations as a method for data collection: Cross-Sectional comparative study of differences in response rate, completeness of data, and financial cost. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(1), e24.

Fosnacht, K., Sarraf, S., Howe, E., & Peck, L. K. (2017). How important are high response rates for college surveys? The Review of Higher Education, 40(2), 245–265.

Sage Research Methods. (n.d.). Ten top tips for designing a questionnaire [Video] .

Zikmund, W., Babin, B., & Griffin, M. (2013). Business research methods (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.


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Evaluate the survey provided to measure the attitude of hospital employees regarding patient safety. The survey can be found as part of Case 15.1 in the course textbook (Zikmund et al., 2013).

More information about the survey, its constructs (see Survey Items and Composite Measures), and survey guidance is available in the AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) website. This survey is the Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture.

Evaluating a Questionnaire

Evaluating a Questionnaire

For your evaluation, be sure to consider the following:

the information that is being sought,
the content and words of individual questions,
the response forms to the questions,
the level of measurement,
and question sequence.
Length: Your paper should be between 5-7 pages, not including the title and reference page.

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