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Introduction  |  Step 1  |  Step 2  |  Step 3  |  Step 4  |  Step 5  |  Step 6  |  Step 7  

Step 1:. Determine the best delivery mode for the questionnaire.

There are four possible delivery modes for a written questionnaire, depending on location and medium (Table 1). The delivery location can be on-site or off-site; the delivery medium can be paper or computer (e.g., software, e-mail, or the Web). The advantages and disadvantages of each mode are detailed next. Note that they are not entirely exclusive of each other; for example, while a questionnaire sent as a Word document attached to an e-mail is technically computer-delivered, the responses have to be processed the same way as for a paper questionnaire.

Table 1: The four ways a written questionnaire can be delivered.

Paper Computer
Location On-site Proctored paper questionnaire Proctored computer questionnaire
Off-site Mailed paper questionnaire Questionnaire delivered via Internet (by e-mail, attached document, or Web hosting service)

Delivery Location: On-Site or Off-Site

On-site delivery refers to giving participants a questionnaire where a member of the evaluation staff is present. For example, if participants are receiving training as a group, it is convenient to administer a questionnaire before the participants leave. The advantages of on-site administration are that the staff member can give directions, answer questions, and ensure that all participants complete the questionnaire. A possible disadvantage is that some participants may want more time to reflect and thereby may feel rushed.

In off-site delivery, respondents complete the questionnaire at work or home. The advantages are that respondents can take as much time as they want and often have more access to information called for in the questions. On the other hand, respondents may not receive or complete the questionnaire, for any number of reasons. Therefore, a system of follow-ups must be created to obtain a reasonable response rate (see Step 6).

Delivery Medium: Paper Versus Computer

The advantages of paper questionnaires are that no special skills or equipment are required to fill them out, and there are no computer interface issues to consider (although design always matters: see Questionnaire Design for details). Disadvantages include the fact that respondents may discard or lose them, making it necessary to send fresh copies. Handwritten responses can also be difficult to interpret (see Step 7). Finally, there may be significant mailing costs.

Computer-based questionnaires have several advantages:

  1. Software programs exist that make it easy to produce an attractive and user-friendly questionnaire.
  2. Responses can be e-mailed (in the case of questionnaires delivered as e-mail messages or Word documents).
  3. Responses can be entered directly into databases, thus eliminating data entry costs (in the case of questionnaires delivered by Web survey hosting services). Most of these hosting services also offer aid in formatting surveys attractively and can produce statistical reports on demand.

Disadvantages of computer delivery include the fact that some respondents may lack the appropriate equipment or level of computer literacy; it is also possible that the wrong person may inadvertently or intentionally respond. Thus, it is important to have an identification system (such as a password) as a safeguard. There also may be significant costs associated with purchasing survey software and associated services such as Web hosting and statistical reporting.