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Step 4: Develop Instrument(s)

The fourth step is to develop an instrument. Depending on which method you chose, this could be an interview guide, a focus group moderator's guide, a questionnaire, or an observation checklist.

Developing good questions is a unique skill set. You will often have to go through several iterations before you end up with the right questions. The answers that you get are only as good as the questions you ask. Therefore, it's a great idea to work with someone who has experience in instrument design.

Many times it is appropriate to hire a research firm or other contractor to do a survey or focus groups for you. If you do hire a contractor for a project, stay involved. You should take a very active role and you should be clear that you will do so as early as possible. Experienced firms can be very helpful in developing instruments, but you are the client. Meet with them, review everything they do, and provide lots of feedback. That way you can be sure they collect the information you need.


If you can find validated questions that have been tested and used in the past, use those questions, but only if they answer your research questions. Just because a question has been validated, it doesn't mean that it will answer your particular research question.

If your questions are meant to be read aloud, try reading them to other members of your team to see how they work when spoken.