Piloting Survey Content

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Guidelines for piloting to refine the content of a survey instrument

Questionnaire structure and design

  • Are there multiple ways of asking questions that should be tested?
  • Should you learn more about how people think to see what flow makes sense?
    • For example, do people think about their input use at plot-level? by crop? overall?
  • Have any questions been flagged as likely sensitive?


Interviewer Instructions

  • Encourage interviewers to probe and follow-up much more than they would in a typical interview
  • Encourage respondents to think out-loud, to understand how they are coming up with their answer.
  • In some cultures, appropriate to ask respondents their feedback at the end of the interview

Observer Instructions

  • You will get valuable feedback by observing pilot interviews even if you don’t speak the local language.
  • Bring a copy of the questionnaire in English, with the same question numbers / variable labels, so that you can follow along with the interview.
    • For the data-focused pilot, the survey instrument should have the option to display in either English (or other research team language) and the local language(s). Follow along with the interview on your own tablet, displaying the questions in English.
    • For the content-focused pilot, best practice is to have two side-by-side columns with text of the questions in both languages. This makes it easy to follow along as an observer, but also helps avoid version control issues when making revisions.
  • Focus on observing both the respondent and the enumerator. It may be a good idea to ask the enumerator to explain if a significant discussion starts over any particular question (depends on the timing, if already a long interview may not want to make it longer, and on how confident you are that the interviewer will be able to report back later the substance of the discussion)

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This article is part of the topic Survey Pilot

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