8. Are you likely to need paper questionnaires?

Paper surveys still have their place in research, either because the audience to be reached doesn’t have easy access to the internet, or quite simply because audiences are flooded with surveys every time they access a website that an alternative approach is required.

The Research industry has certainly taken to online surveys over the last 10 years, but much of the reason is down to cost. Yes, you can generate some spectacular looking online surveys, but can you always rely on the results? You might get 10,000 replies, but are those replies representative of the population you’re investigating? The tendency is to use a shotgun approach, blasting out a survey and hoping for a good response rate. Professional researchers will be the first to tell you that online surveys don’t necessarily give you good results. They merely give you quick results. Follow-up is still required if you want your carefully selected audience to complete your survey.

One of the problems with paper questionnaires is that you’re faced with the tasks of coding the replies and entering the replies into the computer before you can analyze the results. Some software systems have integrated scanners into their software to ease this task, but do be aware – it’s very much a case of developing your questionnaire to suite the scanner, as few systems will scan questionnaires developed in other systems such as word processors.

Preparing paper questionnaires for computer analysis can be very labor intensive, but there are a number of outsourcing agencies who will take on the task on your behalf, returning you a computer file ready for analysis. Another word of warning – do check that the file returned to you by the agency is compatible with the software you’re using to analyze the results.

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