How to Plan a Research Project/Dissertation with Questionnaire

Questionnaire is the main method of collecting data for surveys. Questionnaires can make use of two main types of questions, namely: closed questions or open questions or a combination. This Study Coach UK article should prove useful to you as a guide to doing your research project or dissertation. Furthermore, it should be useful if you decide to use a questionnaire as part of your chosen methodology. The Study Coach Article sets out to provide students with ideas of how to construct a questionnaire for a research project/dissertation. The focus of this Article is on how to structure closed questions, to generate quantitative data. Numbers of closed questions are presented to stimulate thoughts and facilitate learners’ to design their own questionnaire. A questionnaire based on closed questions is particularly useful to learners studying psychology or any other similar subject where a high standard of scientific rigour is required and learners aim to show cause and effect. Stress is the featured research topic, so the article is particularly useful if you are writing on the topic of Stress. 

What are Open versus Closed Questions?

A questionnaire is based on pre-set questions, and the scope of the responses will be limited in view of the questions asked. Respondents are required to give yes or no answers or to choose between a mixed number of alternatives. There are advantages in using a questionnaire survey, because they are known to be fast, efficient and relatively inexpensive method of collecting data; questionnaires can be used with a large sample. There are advantages of using closed questions, because they become easy to quantity and are suitable for statistical analysis. If the research sample is representative, it will be possible to generalise from the findings and if questions are standardised a questionnaire survey will be easy to replicate.  

A disadvantage is that in using closed questions they do limit the respondents choice and freedom of expression. Furthermore the response rate can be low, particularly if the researcher is using post to distribute the survey and to have the survey returned. 

Study Coach has chosen to focus on closed questions, but should you wish to also include some Open questions in your own research, it is worth saying that Open Questions will allow your research participants to express themselves more fully in their own words. Open Questions are good to help researchers find out respondents opinions and views of their own behaviour. The criticism against Open Questions is that they can lead to too much subjectivity and lends itself to qualitative research, instead of quantitative research. Open questions are therefore more difficult to quantify.  

Research methods advantages and disadvantages should feature in your own research. You should therefore consult with relevant sources to provide references to support statements made in regard to methodology. For example, you could refer to:  Bell, J (2005) Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First-Time Researchers (4th end) Maidenhead: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill. 

Issues such as: Word Order, Participants’ rights, Question Order, Sampling, Piloting the Questionnaire, Distributing the Questionnaires, should all be referenced by referring to relevant literature on Research Methods. For example, if you are studying Nursing, then look for Research Methods books in Nursing. If you are doing Psychology, then use Research Methods books in Psychology. 

Dissertation Writing Service Research Methods – Study Coach

How to administer the Questionnaire 

You should also give some consideration to how you will administer the questionnaire, for example will you send out the questionnaires via post. Do note that sending out questionnaires by post will be very costly. You could instead choose to give the respondent the form to complete and return to you, in other words hand it to them to return later. In order to use time effectively, you could give some thought as to whether you as researcher will read out the questions and fill out the questionnaire for respondents; this could however become problematic and lead to interviewer effects? 

Purpose of the Research 

In deciding to use Questionnaires as a method of data collection, you need to first make decisions about what you would like to find out, this is important since it will help reduce wasting time collecting useless responses. For example, if you aim to investigate links between parenting and stress, you as researcher might expect to unearth that single parents are likely to experience a higher level of stress when compared to other mothers who are married or residing with a partner. Your use of a questionnaire will therefore be a means of testing whether or not the hypotheses is supported by the findings. You will need to have clear research aims in order to structure the closed questions for the questionnaire. 

Stress Essay

Let’s say that you have chosen to do research on the topic of stress for your research project or dissertation. You have an interest in the topic because at an earlier stage in your studies you wrote an essay on stress, you are therefore familiar with some of the key stress theorists and now wish to extend your knowledge further by undertaking a more in-depth study. You have clear ideas of what you want to achieve and have decided to use the method of questionnaire to collect data. 

You have discussed your research aims with your tutor/supervisor and you have approval of the chosen methodology, ethical issues, research population and other elements to be covered in the research. In order to create an appropriate questionnaire for your research you should start by identifying issues to prioritise in view of your research aims. 

The topic of stress is far too broad for a single research study, so let’s say that your proposed research aims to investigate how women age 19 – 30 working at XP School, in North Bradford deal with stress. I am starting with the  assumption that you have previously studied theories on stress, for example: SRRS according to Holmes and Rahe (1967), Daily Hassles by Kanner et, al (1981), Selye and others and you understand the concept of stressors and stress responses.  

The underpinning knowledge of SRRS Life Events and  Daily Hassles, should enable you to construct a questionnaire, to find out about the impact of stress on the young women working at XP School. 

How to Plan a Questionnaire – Research Methods

How to Plan a Questionnaire

Firstly, you should consider a framework for the questionnaire and write a statement of instructions for respondents. For Example: This scale is divided into 2 parts (A – B) it should take you no more than 15 minutes to complete and it will ask you about your feelings and thoughts during the last 3 months. Please indicate how often you felt or thought a certain way. You might find that some of the questions are similar, however there are differences between them and I would be grateful if you could answer all questions. Your answers will remain confidential. For each question in section B, please choose from the following alternatives: 

0 Never – 1 Almost Never – 2 Sometimes – 3 Fairly Often – 4 Very Often


Age – 

Single –

Married –

Partnership –

Divorced –

Widow –

Ethnicity –

Occupation – 

Highest Education Level  

Do you have children? (please state ages, if applicable)

Do you use prescribed medication for Stress? 

Do you smoke (if applicable, approximately how many cigarettes do you smoke daily)

How long have you been working at XP School? 


Please choose from the following alternatives: 0 Never – 1 Almost Never – 2 Sometimes – 3 Fairly Often – 4 Very Often

QUESTIONS: In the last 3 months:

  • How often have you felt upset because of something that happened unexpectedly at work?
  • How often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life
  • Do you often feel tired first thing in the morning
  • How often have you felt nervous and stressed
  • Do you sometimes feel that you’re not spending enough quality time with family/friends
  • How often do you feel fed-up
  • Do you ever feel like crying because of your workload
  • How often do you feel pressured because of family commitments
  • How often have you dealt successfully with irritating life hassles
  • How often have you felt that you were coping effectively with important changes that were occurring in your life
  • Have you considered resigning from your work
  • How often do you become agitated because of Daily Hassles
  • Do family and friends ever say that you are stressed
  • How often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems
  • How often do you get time to pamper yourself
  • Do family or friends ever complain that you are always tired
  • How often have you felt that things were going your way 
  • How often have you felt that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do
  • Do you ever feel that you lack control over your life
  • How often have you felt that you were on top of things
  • How often have you felt angered because of things that happened that were outside of your control
  • How often have you thought about things that you need to accomplish 
  • How often have you been able to control the way you spend your time
  • How often have you felt that difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them

(Some questions adapted from: Cohen, S; Kamarck, T; Mormelstein, R (1983) ‘A Global Measure of Perceived Stress’, Vol. 24, No4, 385-396, Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, published by American Sociological Association) 

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