What Are Questionnaires And What Do They Measure

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Although the term 'questionnaire' is one that most of us are familiar with, it is not a straightforward task to provide a precise definition for it. To start with, the term is partly a misnomer because many questionnaires do not contain any, or many, real questions that end with a question mark. Indeed, questionnaires are often referred to under different names, such as 'inventories,' 'forms,' 'opinnionaires,' 'tests,' 'batteries,' 'checklists,' 'scales,' 'surveys,' 'schedules,' 'studies,' 'profiles,' 'indexes/indicators,' or even simply 'sheets' (Aiken, 1997).

Second, the general rubric of 'questionnaire' has been used by researchers in at least two broad senses:

(a) Interview schedules, like the ones used in opinion polls, when someone actually conducts a live interview with the respondent, reading out a set of fixed questions and marking the respondent's answers on an answer sheet.

(b) Self-administeredpencil-and-paper questionnaires, like the 'consumer surveys' that we often find in our mail box or the short forms we are asked to fill in when, for example, checking out of a hotel to evaluate the services.

In this book - in accordance with Brown's (2001) definition below - I will concentrate on the second type only, that is, on the self-completed, written questionnaire that respondents fill in by themselves. More specifically, the focus will be on questionnaires employed as research instruments for measurement purposes to collect reliable and valid data.

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