On length and crowdedness

"Perhaps the most common mistake of the beginner in questionnaire construction is to crowd questions together in the hope of making the questionnaire look short. ... While length is important, the respondent's perception of the difficulty of the task is even more important on self-administered questionnaires. A less crowded questionnaire with substantial white space looks easier and generally results in higher cooperation and fewer errors."

• Orderly layout. Even if the page is dense, a well-designed, orderly layout that utilizes various typefaces and highlighting options (e.g., bold characters or italics) can create a good impression, whereas an unsystematic layout, even if it is more spacious, can appear chaotic. It is also essential that the final version be nicely printed - as Newell (1993) points out, in these days of sophisticated word-processors, people are used to receiving good quality hard copy. So try and find a laser printer and a good photocopier!

• Paper quality. Even the quality and color of the paper might make a difference. Newell (1993) describes a colleague who has always produced documents on thick, beige paper because she believes that "(1) it stands out from the mass of other paper which might be received, (2) it is pleasant to handle, and (3) people will not have the heart to throw away such an attractive document. She says it works" (p. 109). Other researchers suggest that it may be useful to separate the various parts of the questionnaires with a certain color-code of the paper used as it clarifies the structure (Robson, 1993); for example, the paper of the cover page or the instructions can be of a different color.

• Sequence marking. I normally mark each main section of the questionnaire with Roman numbers, each question with consecutive Arab figures, and then letter all the subparts of a question; as a result, I may have Question la or 27d within Section I or III (see the example on page 22). This creates a sense of structuredness. It is also beneficial to include a phrase such as "Continued on back" at the bottom of the first side of a page that is printed on both sides. Finally, it is probably obvious but still worth mentioning that a question should not be split between two pages.

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