Using the cognitive interviewing process to improve survey design by allied health: A qualitative study

Owen Howlett, Carol McKinstry, Natasha A. Lannin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background/aim: Allied health professionals frequently use surveys to collect data for clinical practice and service improvement projects. Careful development and piloting of purpose-designed surveys is important to ensure intended measuring (that respondents correctly interpret survey items when responding). Cognitive interviewing is a specific technique that can improve the design of self-administered surveys. The aim of this study was to describe the use of the cognitive interviewing process to improve survey design, which involved a purpose-designed, online survey evaluating staff use of functional electrical stimulation. Methods: A qualitative study involving one round of cognitive interviewing with three occupational therapists and three physiotherapists. Results: The cognitive interviewing process identified 11 issues with the draft survey, which could potentially influence the validity and quality of responses. The raised issues included difficulties with: processing the question to be able to respond, determining a response to the question, retrieving relevant information from memory and comprehending the written question. Twelve survey amendments were made following the cognitive interviewing process, comprising four additions, seven revisions and one correction. Conclusions: The cognitive interviewing process applied during the development of a purpose-designed survey enabled the identification of potential problems and informed revisions to the survey prior to its use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-134
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • allied health
  • health-care surveys
  • questionnaires
  • surveys

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