Thesis Writing & Tips for Engineering Students – The Questionnaire Design

In our last article we focused on the main facets of ensuring that you are well-equipped to present a thought-invoking and insightful research proposal that is targeted at showcasing the validity of your undertaking and thereby gaining “buy-in” from your respective department lecturers. Once your proposal has been finalized and you are given the go ahead to proceed, one of the first steps that should be carried out is the finalization of your questionnaire design, if this is the preferred method of data collection. For the purposes of this week’s article we will once again lend our focus to the example on construction delays.

Your questionnaire should begin with an introduction and instructions page. The introduction should encompass a summary of the background of your research. For example, your introduction can simply state that delays have been proven to be a problem that affects the construction sector in ways such as litigation and several key projects that have been undertaken in recent years have been subjected to delays.

Once this is done you should move on to describing the purpose of your investigation. For a study on construction delays the purpose of your study can be to determine the stakeholders’ perception of construction delays in terms of severity, frequency and importance.

The final element of the first page should entail clear and concise instructions to correctly completing the questionnaires. Aside from detailing the instructions you should indicate that all responses are strictly for the purposes of research and would be kept with the highest level of confidentiality. This section should also state the timeline in which the participant would have to complete and return the questionnaire. The task of preparing your thesis is one that is very time sensitive; therefore it is imperative that your audience is aware of this. Also ensure that the link included to access your questionnaire is operational; if you are opting to have completed questionnaires emailed to you, be sure to include your accurate email address.

Subsequent to completing the introduction and instructions page, the focus should be aimed at compiling key background data on your interviewee. Elements that are helpful include the occupation of the respondent as well as their number of years’ experience and category of company at which they are employed. Our example focuses on the causes of delays from the viewpoint of Clients, Consultants and Contractors; therefore it is essential that participants be classified as such. It is also important that respondents provide an actual example of a project that they worked on that would have experienced delays as well as the causes of this delay and any cost/time overruns experienced. This information seeks to further validate your research undertaking.

Another key facet in designing your questionnaire is ensuring that the questions asked targets and encompasses all the data required to ensure that your data analysis is not flawed and statistical analysis can be easily carried out. Using our example, you may choose to categorize the delays into their root nature such as design, contractual, labor, materials, client, consultant and contractor, then further breakdown these categories into causes. The causes should then be ranked by the use of a Likert scale in terms of frequency and severity. Each number representing the scale should be clearly defined by meaning, e.g. in terms of frequency 1 – rarely, 2 – sometimes, 3 – often and 4 – always, in terms of degree of severity 1 – little, 2 – moderate, 3 – great and 4 – extreme. Participants should be instructed to use this numbering system in completing their responses.

Once the above elements are incorporated, it is guaranteed that you will be successful in developing a questionnaire that is understandable, easy to fill out and not time consuming. These facets will also ensure a high response rate which will confirm the statistical validity of your research in terms of sample size. With our upcoming series of articles, we at Thesis Associates will continue to provide key tips to warrant your accomplishment in your dissertation preparation!

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