Questionnaire Management and the Pre-Field Six Week Plan

For all projects, no matter the requirements and location, when commissioned there will be an expectation that it will be carried out efficiently and accurately...How can this be acheived? 


Questionnaire Management and the Pre-Field Six Week Plan

Questionnaire Management and the Pre-Field Six Week Plan

1st February 2017 in   Market Research Articles by Andy Madeley

For all projects, no matter the requirements and location, when commissioned there will be an expectation that it will be carried out efficiently and accurately...How can this be acheived? 

Attaining high efficiency and accuracy requires a combination of factors but through our experience we have found that the work practices employed pre-field is the main key factor that helps to deliver the project successfully. And we are now starting to talk more heavily about “questionnaire management” with our clients.

That is, spending the right amount of time on developing the “perfect” questionnaire for the project, both from content and clarity points of view. The main obstacles we find to carrying out good “questionnaire management” and to adhering to good working practices are:

  • the lack of time attributed to operations involvement, as reviewers and scripters of the questionnaire and
  • the amount of client intervention that persists on “changing” the questionnaire

We have prepared what we term the “pre-field 6-week plan”. The reason for developing this was to visually impress upon our clients that spending the right amount of time and keeping to some good pre-field working practices would allow the during-field and post-field activities to run more smoothly, and ultimately, more quickly.

Our ethos is simply, keep to the plan and keep to the cut off points (for client intervention) whilst carrying out the right amount of QC activity pre-field and then we do have a better chance of the during-field and post-field activities being delivered without hiccup, issue or concern.

As you can see from the above, the 6-week plan is split into week-by-week sections. Each week covers a key aspect of questionnaire management that we would expect to be carried out by both ourselves and clients before field work begins.

To ensure all tasks are carried out we have implemented two key checkpoints at the end of week one and week four. Essentially, before moving beyond these checkpoints, all activities prior must be completed!

To help you understand what actions must take place I have detailed below, week-by-week, the 6-week plan.

Week One - Information Gathering

At the start of a project the sample, the (local) “brands” and the languages if applicable need to be verified. Information gathering, which includes finding out which (local and international) brands have significant presence in the region should happen at this stage; if so, then the questionnaire can be finalised.

Also, if applicable, discussion and approval on the languages the survey is to be fielded in should be done at this stage too. And, it should go without saying, but as we have witnessed – local political circumstance do need consideration. Asking politically sensitive questions in certain countries is not advised, therefore, question wording will need to be considered.

The Final Client Questionnaire should be signed off too here as week 2 to 5 activities need a final client approved questionnaire in order to move forward.

Week Two – Questionnaire Sign Off and Sample Design Review

The main activities within week 2 surround carrying out checks on the final questionnaire and the sample design. The questionnaire review, dependent on the questionnaire size, can easily take up to one week to verify and sign off.

Week Three – Scripting (in first language only) and Sample Design approved

The scripting stage will uncover more understanding issues with the questionnaire. If you do not hear any feedback from the scripters then ask them why they’ve not sent you any feedback. There will always be something! This is the scripters chance to communicate with the researcher and for the two parties to form a good working practice.

Week Four – Translations and Testing

It’s key that the survey (that is, both the questionnaire and the script) are NOT sent to the translation agency until the script has been scripted.

Once the script is ready, then this can be exported to an Excel file and the Excel file then sent onto the translation agency. At this stage, you really don’t want any more client intervention re: question changes, additions, deletions etc… and the script needs exhaustively testing by all.

Week Five – Dummy Data Generation, Briefing and (more) Script Testing

The translations should be returned by now, so once these are imported back into the script, then time to test the script again.

Spot checks can be carried out but you should also generate “dummy data”. This is an excellent method for uncovering filter and skip logic issues. Whilst briefing is occurring, this is the key week to carry out a lot of testing. 

Week Six – the final chance to make sure all OK!

The worst case scenario at this time point is that the client is still intervening and parts of the questionnaire need to res-scripted and then go back out for translation. But as the worst-case scenario does happen, and more so than we would like, week six is all about tidying up and making sure all works.

The key, as we mentioned at the start of this document, is to keep control of the client and to make sure all nooks and crannies are uncovered. Don’t be shy, don’t assume you think you know what the client wants – ask questions, test and most importantly get client approval and involvement in testing. Week Six is your safety net week to tidy up all loose ends. Try not to give away or omit week six, if you can!

This 6-week plan can be seen as a lengthy process, but one we strongly recommend that clients follow to avoid problems once the questionnaire hits the field. Too many times we see problems occurring in-field that should have been easily picked up pre-field, if only the correct work-practices were carried out from the start.

In our experience, It is easier, and cheaper, to carry out these checks and corrections pre-field rather than once field-work has started!



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