National Center for Health Statistics
Although the beginnings of survey research can be traced as far back as the late 1880s, the discussion of question design and the need for standardized questions did not appear for another 50 years (Groves et al. 2009). Since this time, notions about question design have dramatically transformed, particularly in regard to question evaluation. In 1951, Stanley Payne published his book, The Art of Asking Questions, and laid out 100 considerations for writing survey questions. Although he maintained that question evaluation studies could be helpful, he argued that the actual writing process should be the higher concern. Today, however, there is a greater emphasis on question evaluation. Also, with the entrance of psychologists, psychometricians, and more recently, anthropologists, qualitative methodologists, and cognitive sociologists, the scientific rigor and scope have increased.
A significant advancement for question evaluation occurred in the 1980s with the entrance of cognitive psychology and the study of the cognitive aspects of survey methodology (CASM). The CASM movement not only brought attention to the issue of measurement error, it also established the idea that individual processes, specifically, respondents' thought processes, must be understood to assess the validity and potential sources of error (Schwarz 2007). The underlying supposition is that, as noted by Willis (2005), “the respondent's cognitive ...