Surveys by questionnaires (on paper or online)

Basic questionnaire requirements:

  • comprehensive, unambiguous, precisely formulated (hint: test it on friends)
  • no leading questions (i. e. questions that covertly influence the interviewee)
  • keep questions as short as possible
  • always ask about one subject at a time
  • no double negations
  • motivating ("Your opinion is important!")


  1. icebreaker question to make the start easy
  2. questions on subjects 

    • to acquire important data
    • ordered by topic
    • from general to specific

  3. control questions and questions for plausibility (i. e. put questions you have already asked in other words to identify ambiguous answers)
  4. person-related questions (to identify corelations between answers and specific groups, e. g. female students or very young students)

Question types

Open questions

  • direct questions that the interviewee is meant to answer freely, i. e. without answer options to choose from (e. g. „Where do you see room for improvements regarding the school
  • advantage: interviewee are not forced into a framework of possible answers but express freely their opinions, attitudes and suggestions
  • problem: numerous different answers that may vary either significantly or hardly at all; assessment of answers is complex

closed questions

  • direct questions with answering options (e. g. „I believe there should be warm meals in the cafeteria.“ „Yes“/“No“)
  • advantage: quick and easy answers, easy assessment
  • problem: answers should cover the whole range of possible answers, there should be no need for the interviewee to elaborate on their answer

kinds of closed questions

  • questions offering alternatives: interviewees may pick just one option from the range of possible answers
  • selective questions: interviewee may pick several or even all options from the range of possible answers
  • scale questions: interviewees give their opinion in an assessment scale (e. g. „How good is the choice of meals in the cafeteria?“ scale from 1 = very poos to 6 = excellent)
  • dialogue questions: the interviewee may only agree with one point of view (e. g. „A says that the food is delicious, B says that it does not. Who do you agree with?“)

Possible problems during interviews

  • interviewer unconsciously rephrases the question so that it suggests something different
  • interviewee wants to please the interviewer or does not want to appear unpleasant and consequently avoid unpopular answers
  • interviewer influences unconsciously the answers of the interviewee through glances or gestures
  • interviewee ticks only middle answers or only yes or no because they are unmotivated
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.