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I've often had researchers or even clients ask "is there a set of principles or guidelines for designing questionnaires"? The short answer is yes, there are some guidelines and principles that are common to most questionnaire design. Let's focus on five key guidelines that may help you out when designing a questionnaire from scratch - particularly if it is your first time.

1. Have a vision and a plan: It's critical to have a clear understanding of what your objective is, and what exactly you are trying to accomplish. With quantitative research it is much hard to go back and adjust once you are out of field if you've somehow missed the mark.

2. Envision the questionnaire as a funnel: when designing the flow, imagine an inverted pyramid; start out broad, then narrow as needed. This is a logical way for the respondent to think, making it easier for them to answer the questions.

3. Avoid order bias: sounds like a no-brainer, but it's critical not to give away the answer to a question before asking it (e.g. sharing brand names before asking unaided brand awareness). Ensure earlier questions do not influence responses to later questions as well (e.g. don't reveal new and exciting information about a brand and then ask about how much the respondent likes a brand, or finds it innovative).

4. Use clear language and the right tone: if your terminology or the language used isn't clear to you, it won't be clear to your audience. And if there's any ambiguity, it will likely end up creeping into your results. Don't forget to ensure that the tone of the wording is reflective of the target audience; you may word questions differently when speaking to men 18-24 who are into video games versus professional lawyers.

5. Keep length in mind: looks can be deceiving, so always time your questionnaire to ensure you are within the specified parameters you set out. If possible, have someone else review your questionnaire for length.

Questionnaire design is an art that comes with practice, but using these five principles along with reviewing the four rules of wording should help set you on your way.

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