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Designing questionnaires – the role of question order on measurement

Coordinator 1Mr Alexandre Pollien (FORS, University of Lausanne)
Coordinator 2Miss Jessica Herzing (FORS/LINES, University of Lausanne)

Session Details

Survey researchers perceive a survey as a conversation between the researcher and the respondent. As in conversations, the thematic context formed by a series of questions implicitly frames the understanding of the respondents. Hence, the order of questions as well as changes of the thematic context between question blocks can affect respondent’s answers (question order effects). Thus, question order effects are a concern for survey practitioners when designing questionnaires.
Yet, there are inconclusive results on how to order questions/question topics in general. The emergence, direction and size of context effects in attitude questions is well understood in the context of the literature on framing (e.g., Schwarz and Sudman 1992). Furthermore, primacy and recency effects have been discussed in the survey methodological literature. However, previous research has shown that question order effects do not exclusively rely on the questionnaire: in other words, the effect occurs by the way of the respondent's activity: levels of education (Sudman and Bradburn, 1974) or more specifically attitude strength (Ajzen et al. 1982) tend to make respondents react differently to the question order. Such perspectives where the question order interacts with the respondent characteristics should be addressed and discussed in this session.
For this session, we invite submissions from experimental studies on question order effects. We are especially interested in approaches which compare different settings of deviations on question order effects, such as cultural comparisons (is the effect the same according to the language, the political context?), mode comparisons (does the effect differ according to the layout of the questions?), comparison of social contexts (attitude strength, social status of respondents), and comparison of questionnaire fatigue (burden of the preceding questions). Furthermore, we encourage submissions, which investigate question order effects on measurement when splitting questionnaires into different parts (thematic or random question order), e.g., surveys with mixed or modular questionnaire design.