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Questions

Question formatting

Group the question number, question text, special instructions, and the response options that comprise each question together as a unit. Within the question pane, each portion needs to be seen as an appropriate subgroup.

Ask one question at a time. Have a balance between keeping the number of questions down and helping respondents work through quickly. Although length is important, respondents' perception of the difficulty of the task is even more important (Bradburn, Sudman & Wansick, 2004). While complicated questions that use sub-questions can keep the overall number of questions down, respondents may not be able to quickly progress through the questionnaire. See section 4.2 for more information on sub-numbering.

Place more blank space between questions than between the sub-components of questions.

See also:

Example of recommended question format

Image, Example of recommended question format.

Image, Example of recommended question format.  top

Alignment of questions

Align questions to the left, with a ragged right margin.

Columns of questions

Do not use columns unless they are essential due to space restrictions (eg Census).

If columns are used, aim to keep the number of columns to two.

Avoid using a different number of columns on the same page. If it is necessary to change the number of columns, start with the least number of columns (ie change from one column to two columns rather than from two to one).

Do not change from one to two columns if the first format (one column) takes up more than 50 percent of the page, as this increases the risk that items in the second column at the bottom of the page will be missed.

Do not put routing questions at the bottom of a column as research has found that this can result in high item non-response, or completion errors. This is especially the case if the routing question carries over to the next page.

Example of two columns of questions

Image, Example of two columns of questions.  top

Punctuation

End questions with a question mark (note that questions are preferred over statements).

End statements with a full stop.

Use a colon if the response options form part of the question.

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