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Survey Guidelines

Cognitive Pretesting

In survey research, cognitive pretesting is generally considered an essential prerequisite for the successful development of a questionnaire and thus for the quality of the data collected within the framework of a survey. This contribution provides an introduction to the topic of questionnaire pretesting and focuses especially on the planning and implementation of cognitive pretests. The following questions are addressed, in particular: What is a pretest and why should you conduct questionnaire pretests? What pretesting procedures are available and which one should you choose? What techniques are applied in cognitive pretests? How are cognitive pretests conducted? How are cognitive pretests evaluated?

Lenzner, T., Neuert, C., & Otto, W. (2016). Cognitive Pretesting. GESIS Survey Guidelines. Mannheim, Germany: GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences. DOI: 10.15465/gesis-sg_en_010

  • Lenzner, Timo, Patricia Hadler, and Cornelia Neuert. 2022. "An experimental test of the effectiveness of cognitive interviewing in pretesting questionnaires." Quality & Quantity online first. doi:
  • Martin, Silke, Anouk Zabal, Sanja Kapidzic, and Timo Lenzner. 2022. "Optimizing Advance Letters: Findings From a Cognitive Pretest." Survey Methods: Insights from the Field 2020 (20.12.2022). doi:
  • Neuert, Cornelia, and Timo Lenzner. 2021. "Effects of the number of open-ended probing questions on response quality in cognitive online pretests." Social Science Computer Review 39 (3): 456-468. doi: