Advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires

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Advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires

This article aims to identify and explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires. Questionnaires are often used by researchers in quantitative research as they are understood to be very useful to collect large amounts of data from a large sample of people. However, questionnaires are not without some limitations. It is, therefore, important for researchers to examine the advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires before deciding whether they should use this instrument in their research or not.

Definition of questionnaire

According to Cambridge Dictionary (2019), a questionnaire is a list of questions that several people are asked so that information can be collected about something.

According to BBP Learning Media (2009, p.76), ‘the questionnaire is the primary tool of marketing research, a device for delivering questions to respondents and recording their answers’.

Advantages of questionnaires

There are a number of advantages of using questionnaires in research as follows:

  • Easy to conduct and surely, large amounts of information can be obtained from a large number of respondents. Questionnaires are also cost-effective when the researchers aim to target a large population.
  • Broad coverage. Local, national, and international respondents can be easily reached by questionnaires. The Internet and particularly, social media have made it easy to use questionnaires to reach out to respondents afar.
  • Responses received are frank and anonymous. Unlike interviews, questionnaires are good for sensitive & ego-related questions.
  • Carrying out research with questionnaires is less time consuming and respondents can fill in questionnaires at a convenient time as well.
  • Questionnaires provide the researchers with quantitative data. Quantitative information can be used to prove or disprove existing hypotheses. The results of the questionnaires can also be easily quantified by researchers either manually or through the use of software packages such as SPSS.

Disadvantages of questionnaires

There are a number of disadvantages of using questionnaires in research as follows:

  • No clarification for ambiguous questions. Many experts argue that questionnaires are inadequate to understand human behavior, attitude, feelings etc.
  • Inadequate motivation to respond. Unattractive style and format of questionnaires may also put some respondents off.
  • Some questions may be poorly worded, while some others may be very direct. These questions are not useful to obtain good information. Many researchers also argue that questionnaires lack validity as they yield information without explanation.
  • Low response rate as questionnaires may not simply be suitable for some respondents. Likewise, if the researchers decide to use a postal questionnaire, many people may decline to respond.
  • Many questions may be interpreted by respondents in ways the researchers did not intend resulting in irrelevant information. Likewise, it is also difficult for researcher to say how truthful the respondents were.

Types of questions

Researchers may use different types of questions to obtain a variety of information. Therefore, questions may be open-ended and close-ended. Likewise, questions may be structured and unstructured.

An example of a structured question is as follows:

  • With whom are you travelling on this flight?
  1. No one
  2. Spouse
  3. Spouse and children
  4. Friends

An example of an unstructured question is as follow?

  • What steps are required, you think, to improve the quality of living standard in a developing country?

We hope the article ‘Advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires’ has been helpful. You may also like reading Advantages and disadvantages of interviews and Advantages and disadvantages of online learning. Other relevant articles for you are:

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Last update: 13 December 2019

References/Further reading:

BPP Learning Media (2009) Marketing, London: BPP Learning Media

Cambridge Dictionary (2019) Questionnaire, available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/questionnaire (accessed 10 December 2019)

Photo credit: Pixabay

Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He is a graduate of Leeds Metropolitan University and London South Bank University.