Pareto Principle Checklist for Question Design
Problems to watch out for before testing the questionnaire.
PROBLEMS WITH READING: Determine whether it is difficult for the interviewers to read the question uniformly to all respondents.
1a – WHAT TO READ: Interviewers may have difficulty determining what parts of the question are to be read.
1b – MISSING INFORMATION: Information the interviewer needs to administer the question is not contained in the question.
1c – HOW TO READ: Question is not fully scripted and therefore difficult to read.
PROBLEMS WITH INSTRUCTIONS: Look for problems with any introductions, instructions, or explanations from the respondent’s point of view.
2a – CONFLICTING OR INACCURATE INSTRUCTIONS, introductions, or explanations.
2b – COMPLICATED INSTRUCTIONS, introductions, or explanations.
PROBLEMS WITH ITEM CLARITY: Identify problems related to communicating the intent or meaning of the question to the respondent.
3a – WORDING: The question is lengthy, awkward, ungrammatical, or contains complicated syntax.
3b – TECHNICAL TERMS are undefined, unclear, or complex.
3c – VAGUE: The question is vague because there are multiple ways in which to interpret it or to determine what is to be included and excluded.
3d – REFERENCE PERIODS are missing, not well specified, or are in conflict.
PROBLEMS WITH ASSUMPTIONS: Determine whether there are problems with assumptions made or the underlying logic.
4a – INAPPROPRIATE ASSUMPTIONS are made about the respondent or his/her living situation.
4b – ASSUMES CONSTANT behavior: The question inappropriately assumes a constant pattern of behavior or experience for situations that in fact vary.
4c – DOUBLE-BARRELED question that contains multiple implicit questions.
PROBLEMS WITH KNOWLEDGE/MEMORY: Check whether respondents are likely to not know
or have trouble remembering information.
5a – KNOWLEDGE: The respondent is unlikely to know the answer.
5b – An ATTITUDE that is asked about may not exist.
5c – RECALL failure.
5d – COMPUTATION or calculation problem.
PROBLEMS WITH SENSITIVITY/BIAS: Assess questions for sensitive nature or wording, and for bias.
6a – SENSITIVE CONTENT: The question is on a topic that people will generally be uncomfortable talking about.
6b – A SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE response is implied.
PROBLEMS WITH RESPONSE CATEGORIES: Assess the adequacy of the range of responses to be recorded.
7a – OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS that are inappropriate or difficult.
7b – MISMATCH between question and answer categories.
7c – TECHNICAL TERMS are undefined, unclear, or complex
7d – VAGUE response categories.
7e – OVERLAPPING response categories.
7f – MISSING response categories.
7g – ILLOGICAL ORDER of response categories.
Things to pay attention to when testing the questionnaire.
- Which items require respondents to think hard before they answer?
- What cognitive processes do they adopt to answer difficult questions?
- Which items seem to produce irritation, embarrassment, or confusion?
- Are there any items that respondents consider comical?
- Does the style of the question generate bias?
- Are the answers we get what we really want for the purpose of the study?
- Is there enough variability in the answers received?
- Are there local expressions that should be incorporated into the items to avoid ambiguity?
- Is the questionnaire too long?
- In the eye of the respondent, have any other important issues been overlooked in the questionnaire?