Items on a questionnaire should be grouped into
logically coherent sections. Grouping questions that are
similar will make the questionnaire easier to complete,
and the respondent will feel more comfortable. Questions
that use the same response formats, or those that cover a
specific topic, should appear together.
Each question should follow comfortably from the
previous question. Writing a questionnaire is similar to
writing anything else. Transitions between questions
should be smooth. Questionnaires that jump from one
unrelated topic to another feel disjointed and are not
likely to produce high response rates.
Most investigators have found that the order in which
questions are presented can affect the way that people
respond. One study reported that questions in the latter
half of a questionnaire were more likely to be omitted,
and contained fewer extreme responses. Some researchers
have suggested that it may be necessary to present
general questions before specific ones in order to avoid
response contamination. Other researchers have reported
that when specific questions were asked before general
questions, respondents tended to exhibit greater interest
in the general questions.
It is not clear whether or not question-order affects
response. A few researchers have reported that
question-order does not effect responses, while others
have reported that it does. Generally, it is believed
that question-order effects exist in interviews, but not
in written surveys.