Clear and orderly structure

The most important aspect of sequencing questions is to ensure that the respondents' overall impression is that the structure is well-organized and orderly. If the ordering of questions is unpredictable or seemingly haphazard, it will frustrate respondents and make the study appear ill-considered and amateurish (Newell, 1993). Neither the content nor the style of the questionnaire should "jump around" (Aiken, 1997) - the items should seem as a series of logically organized sequences. To achieve this, we need to follow certain organizing principles.

One organizing principle should be the item format. If the questionnaire contains items of different types, these need to be clustered together into well marked sub-sections, separated from each other by a clear set of instructions to highlight the format change for the respondent. Similarly, questions that deal with the same topic should be grouped together. In order to make the progression from topic to topic smoother, we may include short linking sentences such as, "In this section we '11 move on to look at more specific aspects of... ". Content-based organization, however, does not mean that the items in a multi-item scale (cf. Section 2.3.2) should be next to each other - the repetitive content may frustrate the respondents. What I usually do is take 4-5 content areas that are related to each other and then mix up the constituent items randomly.

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