The word questionnaire refers to a device for securing answers to questions, by using a form which the respondent fills in himself. A questionnaire is a research tool used to gather data and information from individuals or groups of people. It consists of a series of structured questions designed to elicit specific responses from respondents. Questionnaires can be administered in various formats, including paper-based forms, online surveys, or interviews. Thus, questionnaire provides the most speedy and simple technique of gathering data about groups of individuals scattered in a wide and extended field. In this method, a questionnaire form is sent usually by post to the persons concerned, with a request to answer the questions and return the questionnaire.

Definition of Questionnaire

1. According to Goode and Hatt, “It is a device for securing answers to questions by using a form which the respondent fills in himself.”

2. According to G. Lundburg, “Fundamentally, the questionnaire is a set of stimuli to which illiterate people are exposed in order to observe their verbal behaviour under social stimuli.”

3. According to G. A. Lundberg, “Fundamentally the questionnaire is a set of stimuli to which illiterate people are exposed in order to observe their verbal behavior under these stimuli.”


Questionnaire provides the most speedy and simple technique of gathering data about groups of individuals scattered in a wide and extended field. In this method, a questionnaire form is usually sent by post to the persons concerned, with a  request to answer the questions and return the questionnaire.

Questionnaires exhibit a broad range of classifications, with P. V. Young, in his book “Scientific Social Surveys and Research” (2014, pp. 190-193), simplifying them into three main types: structured, unstructured and pictorial questionnaires.

1. Structured Questionnaires: According to P.V. Young, structured questionnaires are those which pose definite, concrete and pre-ordained questions, i.e., they are prepared in advance and not constructed on the spot during the questioning period.

This questionnaire uses highly standardized techniques and set of pre-determined questions. It includes both closed and open-ended questions.

a. Closed-Ended Questions: It is used when categorized data are required or when the researcher wants to make various classifications for his study.

An example of closed-end question is: “How many from your family are educated?” Only one/two/three/four/five, or more than five.

Here, the respondent goes through all those given responses and chooses one which is true for his situation.

b. Open-Ended Questions: The open-ended responses are free and spontaneous expressions on the part of the informant, who is not limited in his replies to a particular question posed to him.

An example of open open-ended question is: “What are you thinking about the educational qualifications of your family members?.”

Here, the subject can write freely and frankly their concrete views with no directions from the researcher. The open-ended responses are used chiefly for intensive studies of a limited number of cases or for preliminary exploration of new problems and situations.

2. Unstructured Questionnaires: Unstructured questionnaires are frequently referred to as ‘interview guides’, also aim at precision and contain definite subject matter areas, the coverage of which is required during the interview. The researcher also has a greater freedom to ask the respondents any supplementary questions.

This is characterized by a greater flexible approach to questioning the respondents. It is of a non-directive type, which involves relatively much less standardization of techniques and operations. Here, the respondents have the freedom to express any event that seems significant to them, to give their own definition of an event or a situation and to narrate any particular incident of their life.

3. Pictorial questionnaire: Pictures have been used in some questionnaires in order to promote some interest and motivation among the respondents for answering the questions. It is useful for those respondents who are least educated. Pictorial techniques have been used extensively in studies of social attitudes and prejudices in children.

Source: P. V. Young - Scientific Social Surveys and Research” (2014, p. 191)

Thus, a questionnaire helps us to provide the speediest and simplest technique of gathering data about groups of individuals scattered in a wide and extended field.


The questionnaire is regarded as the most useful research tool. As an instrument of science, it has great potential when it is properly used. If it is eliminated, progress in many research areas would be greatly handicapped. The following are the chief advantages –

1. Economical: It is an economical way of accumulating information. It is economical for both the sender and the respondent in time, effort and cost. The cost of conducting the study with the help of questionnaire method is very low. In questionnaire, the researcher has to spend for paper printing and postage only. There is no need to visit each and every respondent personally. So it does not require high cost to conduct the research.

2. Accessibility to widespread respondents: When the respondents are separated geographically, they can be reached by correspondence which saves travel cost.

3. Rapidity: Replies may be received very quickly in questionnaire method. In this case there is no need to visit the respondent personally or continue the study over a long period.

4. Suitable in Special Type of Response: The information about certain personal, secret matters can be best obtained through questionnaire method. For example, information about a sexual relationship, marital relationship, secret desires etc., can be easily obtained by keeping the names of the respondents anonymous.

5. Repetitive Information: Compared to other methods like schedule, interview or observation, questionnaire method is regarded as more useful and cheap, where the repetitive information has to be collected at regular interval.

6. An Easier Method: Questionnaire is comparatively an easier method to plan, construct and administer. It does not require much technical skill or knowledge.

7. It Puts Less Pressure on the Respondents: It puts less pressure on the respondents for immediate response. He can answer it at his own leisure, whereas interview or observation demands specific fixation on time and situation.

8. Uniformity: It helps in focusing the respondent’s attention on all the significant items. As it is administered, in a written form, its standardized instructions for recording responses ensure some uniformity. Questionnaire does not permit much variation.

9. Useful Preliminary Tool: Questionnaire may be used as a preliminary tool for conducting a depth study later on by any other method.

10. Greater Validity: Questionnaire has some unique merits as regards validity of information. In methods like interview and observation, the reliability of responses depends on the way the investigator has recorded them. Here they may present biased or prejudiced information of their own. But in questionnaire method, the responses given by the subjects are available in their own language and version. Therefore, it cannot be wrongly interpreted by the researcher.

11. Greater Anonymity: Questionnaire ensures anonymity to its respondents. The respondents have a greater confidence that they will not be identified by anybody for giving a particular view or opinion. They feel more comfortable and free to express their view in this method.

12. Most Flexible Tool for Data Collection: Questionnaire is no doubt the most flexible tool for collecting both quantitative and qualitative information.


1. The mailed questionnaires can be used only for educated people. This restricts the number of respondents.

2. The return rate of questionnaires is low. The common return rate is 30 to 40 percent.

3. The mailing address may not be correct, which may omit some eligible respondents. Thus, the sample selected many times is described as biased.

4. Sometimes, different respondents interpret questions differently. The misunderstanding cannot be corrected.

5. There may be bias in the response selectivity because the respondent having no interest in the topic may not give response to all questions. Since the researcher is not present to explain the meaning of certain concepts, the respondent may leave the question blank.

6. Questionnaires do not provide an opportunity to collect additional information while they are being completed.

7. Researchers are not sure whether the person to whom the questionnaire was mailed has answered the questions himself or somebody else has filled out the questionnaire.

8. Many questions remain unanswered. The partial response affects the analysis.

9. The respondent can consult other persons before filling in the questionnaire. The responses, therefore, cannot be viewed as his opinions.

10. The reliability of respondent’s background information cannot be verified. A middle-class person can identify himself as rich person, or a person of intermediate caste can described himself as upper-caste person.

11. Since the size of the questionnaire has to be kept small, full information cannot be secured from the respondents.

12. There is lack of depth or probing for a more specific answer.


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