High quality results can be elicited from an online Qual survey by following the guidelines below.
Questions which respondents cannot understand or cannot answer will elicit poor responses. So it is very important when designing a questionnaire to view the questions through the eyes of a respondent, to make sure they are clear and simple.
If the questionnaire is too long, boring or difficult then respondents will inevitably lose interest at some point. This means they will not devote as much attention as you would like to your key questions.
Another factor in securing good answers to a Qual survey is to conduct at least one soft launch. Checking the soft launch results will show you how the respondents are interpreting your questions. If you find that they are not interpreting them in the way you wish then you can rephrase those questions after the soft launch.
If your soft launch has revealed any issues over the interpretation of your questions by respondents you may decide to do a second soft launch. This allows you to check the answers to your re-phrased questions before you full launch.
Another important contributor to good quality results is for the speed at which respondents can answer your questionnaire to be controlled by the survey software, rather than by the respondents.
The way to do this is to include time controls within the survey. This can be done by hiding the “Continue” button for a certain number of seconds after the respondent has landed on a page. You can also include a message which is shown to respondents telling them about this time control.
You may not want time controls on every question, but just on your most important open-ended questions.
A “plausibility check” works by the survey software checking the contents or length of answer given to a question by a respondent. For example, a simple check would be for if a respondent has answered “Don’t know” to an open-ended question. The plausibility check would then show a message to the respondent which says “You answered that you don’t know. Please try to think further and then give your answer. Thank you!”.
Plausibility checks can also be used to check the number of words in an answer, and prompt respondents to write more words if they have written fewer than you requested.
There will always be a few respondents who do not give good answers to questions, whatever measures you take. So our final recommendation towards getting a good set of results to your Qual surveys is to visually inspect the results of each respondent during fieldwork, and to exclude any who have not answered properly.
It is often assumed that survey respondents will not give proper, considered answers to open-ended questions. But this is not true. Using the five methods above will help you gain good quality answers to the surveys you run or commission.