LIS 504 - Questionnaire Design - Ranganathan's Canons

Ranganathan developed "Canons for Characteristics"* for use in the design of classification schemes. The following table indicates how a number of these might or might not apply in the design of questions for questionnaires.
Canon Meaning in classification Application to questionnaires
Differentiation Not too many items in one class Don't ask questions for which almost everyone will give the same answer (for one thing, such questions make it very difficult to obtain statistically significant results)
Non-concomitance Not too predictable from another characteristic Don't ask redundant questions (except for the specific purpose of checking intra-respondent reliability)
Relevance Useful for intended uses and users Don't ask questions to which you don't really need the answer; for example, don't ask for personal details such as age unless these are important.
Ascertainability Easy to assign items to classes Don't ask questions that respondents cannot readily answer (for example, questions that require looking up some other source of information)
Permanence Not too many items changing class Don't ask questions to which the answer is likely to change quickly: this creates problems with reliability.

* Ranganathan, S.R. 1963. Prolegomena to library classification, ed. 3. New York: Asia Publishing House. 144-153.


Last updated November 6, 2000.
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