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Principles for Sound Questionnaire Design

Principles for Sound Questionnaire Design

Rosnow & Rosenthal (2013) mention that the development of a questionnaire should be accompanied by pilot testing, which entails checking if the items in the questionnaire are properly worded. Additionally, the presentation and wording of the questionnaire are not supposed to lead the respondents to provide narrow unrealistic answers (Rosnow & Rosenthal, 2013). Another important tenet is that one should avoid asking questions that lead the respondent (Rosnow & Rosenthal, 2013). Also, according to Kalton & Schuman (1982), a questionnaire with long questions can be cumbersome; therefore, an effective questionnaire can consist of a mixture of short and long questions to produce more reporting. They add that a questionnaire must have an instruction section that advises the respondent on performing their task.

In reference to my identified principles above, the questionnaire on the ‘Disgust Scale’ adheres to the principle of instruction. The respondent has been given instructions on how to answer the questions, which have even been highlighted in bold, so the reader is not likely to miss them. Regarding pilot testing on how items are worded, some questions may not resonate with some of the respondents because of their wording. For instance, the question, “I might be willing to try eating monkey meat, under some circumstances,” is unnecessary considering the choice answers given, from strongly disagree to strongly agree, because, to some people, it is unrealistic and even unimaginable to eat a monkey’s meat. Therefore, the wording principle has been violated by this questionnaire.

Moreover, the questionnaire violates the identified principle of leading questions. For example, a question such as “If I see someone vomit, it makes me sick to my stomach” may actually inspire the feeling of sickness in the stomach of the respondent. Rather, the question should have been, “How would you feel if you saw someone vomit?” The choice answers may include disgust, sickness, empathy, or annoyance. Lastly, the questionnaire has only short answer and response questions, limiting the respondents’ answers; this partly violates the principle of incorporating short and long answer questions since it only used short answer questions. Therefore, while the ‘Disgust Scale’ seemed to adhere to some of the listed principles, it violated others.


Kalton, G., & Schuman, H. (1982). The effect of the question on survey responses: A review. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (General), 145(1), 42-57.

Rosnow, R. & Rosenthal, R. (2013). Beginning Behavioral Research: A Conceptual Primer, Seventh Edition. Boston: Pearson.


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Principles for Sound Questionnaire Design

Principles for Sound Questionnaire Design

Using the resources from this module, list several general principles that you believe are important for sound questionnaire design. Then choose one of the questionnaires listed below and discuss the ways the questionnaire fits or violates your principles. It is fully understood that several of your principles may not easily be applied to these questionnaires because you do not know the exact background of how the scales were developed. Instead, focus on the principles you developed regarding item wording, response options, question order, and so on. 

Big 5 Personality Inventory (Goldberg, 1993) PDF: One of the most commonly used measures of personality; scale on pages 3–4, scoring on page 4 

Procrastination Scale (Lay, 1986) PDF: A scale intended to measure procrastination in student populations; scoring information on the second page 

Disgust Scale (Haidt, McCauley, & Rozin, 1994; Modified by Olatunji et al., 2007) Word Document: A scale intended to measure disgust; scoring information at the bottom of the page

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