Formulating questions

Finding and formulating the right questions can be tricky and can take time. Yet the success of the whole process depends on your questions. So it is worth it to give it all the necessary attention! We recommend taking the time to design the questions in a separate document or on paper before you enter them online.

Set-up of a Sprockler inquiry

Sprockler inquiries often have a similar set-up. This is based on research about what motivates people to share stories and prevents them from leaving the inquiry half-way through. Naturally, you are not obliged to stick to this set-up, feel free to set up the inquiry in any way you like.

The standard set-up is as follows:

1. Inviting story questions An inquiry usually starts with a story question. A question that asks the storyteller to share a story or an experience about the topic at the core of the inquiry.

2. Meaning mapping questions One of the core aspects of Sprockler is that stories are interpreted by the storytellers, not by outside analysts. This is done to ensure more authentic and reliable data and to decrease the risk of misinterpretation. Additionally, interpreting own stories provides storytellers with a sense of ownership as they decide how their story needs to be interpreted. Information is not just extracted from them, but storytellers play a vital role in making sense of what is happening in their community, company or other environment. Sprockler calls this meaning mapping, as we map the meaning behind the stories of many storytellers. Non-extractive but participatory and engaging data collection is core to Sprockler's philosophy.

3. Context questions The third part of the inquiry are the context questions, questions that do not directly relate to the story shared by the storyteller but provide more information about the context in which the storyteller operates or their opinion about the topic at hand. The meaning mapping questions and context questions make use of special question types, such as bipoles and tripoles. These question types are particularly designed to be understandable for all and to trigger intuitive answers. They allow us to collect the quantitative data to accompany the qualitative data provided by the stories.

4. Classifying questions Lastly, the classifying questions allow you to differentiate between your results. For example, you can ask about the age of the storytellers so that when the results come in you can look whether there is a difference in responses between the different age groups.

You can find out more about each group of questions in this chapter.

The process of creating questions

To design your inquiry it works best to get a group of people together to brainstorm, preferably people with different perspectives and from different stakeholder groups. Make sure to also include people who will be the target audience of your inquiry. Think of what your research should be about and what you are really curious about. From experience, we have learned that it is the easiest to start designing an inquiry by thinking of your classifying questions. Think of who it is your inquiry will be for.

Then move on to your story question. Story questions yield more interesting results if you ask for concrete and personal experiences. In this way, you avoid generalised remarks that are not based on actual experiences. Collecting enough experiences gives you insights into how these experiences play out on a larger scale.

When designing questions make sure everybody can answer all questions by trying to answer each question from various perspectives (positive and negative for example).

An essential ingredient for the success of your questions is to test them on real life storytellers from the group you want to collect stories from. About five test interviews should give you an idea whether people understand the language used in your questions and whether they are formulated in a way that asks for the information you want to know.

Be patient if the designing process takes longer than you originally expected. It can take time for the right questions and right wording to ripen.