Using questionnaires is vital to the success of your clinical research.

While data is king, research teams are often faced with a dilemma in deciding the appropriate questionnaire length. Sure, it’s tempting to ask a subject as many questions as possible in an attempt to get as much information as possible. The question is, will the participant actually answer all those questions? You must take a strategic approach to questionnaire design.

Too many questions can result in participants dropping out and disengaging from the research. On the other hand, not enough questions can leave you without the data you need to draw conclusions. So, how do you find the perfect balance? This article will break down some key considerations for using questionnaires in research. Straight off the bat, here are a few key findings:

  • A good questionnaire can be of 25 to 30 questions.
  • It should take participants no more than 30 minutes to answer.
  • If a longer questionnaire is necessary, divide it into sections.

These are just some of the conclusions drawn by a study into the optimal length of questionnaires for research. If you bombard participants with too many questions, they are likely to drop out. In fact, the study found that the length of a questionnaire has a direct effect on the time taken by the respondent to complete the questionnaire and quality of data obtained.

Using Questionnaires In Research (Key Considerations)

Are they easy to answer?

If you are asking long-winded questions, you are more likely to lose participants along the way. The key is to make your questions as easy to answer as possible. This means avoiding jargon and using regular language that everyone can understand.

You should ask questions sparingly and with clear intent. There is no need to ask a question just for the sake of it. Every question should have a purpose and help further your research goals. If you start clogging up your questionnaire with unnecessary questions, participants are going to get turned off quickly – which will ultimately affect the quality of your data.

Do they require freeform text responses?

Freeform text responses typically take longer to craft and can overwhelm participants. If you can, try to avoid these where possible. Instead, opt for closed-ended questions with pre-determined responses.

That said, there will be times when you do need to ask open-ended questions. In these cases, try to keep them as short and concise as possible. The easier you make it for participants to answer, the more likely they are to do so.

Demanding dozens of freeform text responses will only delay completion of your questionnaire and increase the chance of dropouts.

Are you breaking questions down into clusters and categories?

If you do need to send a long list of questions to participants, make sure you break them down into manageable clusters. This will make the questionnaire less daunting for participants and help them understand what is being asked of them.

You should try to group questions together that are related. If you are asking study participants to recall information from memory, it can be helpful to include these questions in their own cluster.

How often will you send these surveys?

You should also consider how often you will intend to send these surveys. If you want to send a daily survey to participants, listing dozens of questions to answer is probably overkill. Keeping these questionnaires short and sweet is key to engaging participants for the long run.

If you are conducting a one-time survey, you may have more leeway to include an extensive list of questions. Just make sure that these questions are essential to your research goals and that participants won’t be overwhelmed by them.

Are there multiple survey types?

Collecting different forms of data frequently can leave participants feeling disorientated by the process. When it is necessary to switch things up and use different types of surveys, you should do all you can to keep these questionnaires succinct.

Participant Surveys in Clinical Research (Best Practices)

Set expectations from the beginning

There is nothing worse than starting to answer a survey and not knowing how long it will take. When participants know what to expect from the start, they can set the necessary time aside to complete the questionnaire. You should include an estimated completion time on all surveys that you send out.

Leverage “nudges” to boost engagement

Using a text messaging solution for clinical research, you can send reminders and “nudges” to participants, encouraging them to complete surveys. These reminders can be set up in advance and automated, so you don’t have to worry about manually sending them out each time.

Medical Research Questionnaires (Using Text Messages)

Clinical research teams are using Mosio’s text messaging software to automate study communications and increase engagement. By sending medical research questionnaires via text message, teams can engage participants through a medium that they are already comfortable with and are likely to check frequently.

We have found that a 10-question survey sent via text message should take around one minute for participants to complete. Although, the length of time it takes to complete will depend on the nature of the questions. If you are asking study participants to write freeform answers, it will likely take them longer to respond.

The advantage of using text messages to collect data is that participants can answer these surveys in their own time. You can send personalized reminders (or “nudges”) to participants, reminding them to complete the questionnaire.

Explore how you can automate your study communications for better adherence, engagement and data collection with Mosio.