Questionnaires are an important tool when examining people's opinions, feelings and behaviors on issues that concern them directly or indirectly. They are mostly useful to businesses wanting to learn about consumers' behavior, to media aiming to see people's reaction to major events and during ethnographic and economic studies. However, using questionnaires for a research is one thing; accurately explaining the results is another. Endless lists of percentages and numerical data are confusing — and even charts can be misleading and ruin the research's credibility if results are not presented in a comprehensible manner.
Explain the method in which questionnaires were used during the research. Mention, for example, the type of questions contained in the questionnaire, whether the method was quantitative or qualitative, the margin of error, as well as information on the research sample, including a detailed analysis of how the sample was generated.
Use plain language when explaining the results of each question. For instance, avoid saying "75 percent" and choose "three quarters," or instead of "10 percent" say "one out of 10 people." However, be precise and do not mislead your audience: 52 percent is not "most people.”
Repeat the research's margin of error and avoid making generalizations. Even when results of a questionnaire show an overwhelming prevalence of one value, mention the facts (“... nine out of 10 people in this survey ...”) and not a supposedly general truth (“... nearly everyone ...”).
Utilize graphs to make your presentation more understandable. A simple bar or pie graph with a detailed legend can help your audience visualize the results of the questionnaire, especially when it is not accustomed to statistics and numerical data (readers of newspapers, young students).
Contrast the results of the questionnaire with findings of previous researches. For example, when a survey on April shows preference to presidential candidate A and another survey nine months later reveals a slight edge for candidate B, stress the difference and explain its occurrence based on events within those nine months.
In questionnaire results presentations, choose plain language when explaining the findings, but include a memo for each member of the audience with all statistical details and numerical data. However, unless you deal with a small audience (company board of directors for instance), this is a costly procedure.
Tasos Vossos has been a professional journalist since 2008. He has previously worked as a staff writer for "Eleftheros Tipos," a leading newspaper of Greece, and is currently a London-based sports reporter for Perform Sports Media in the United Kingdom. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication and media from the University of Athens.