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Cognitive Pretesting

In survey research, conducting a pretest is generally considered an indispensable prerequisite for the successful development of a questionnaire - and thus for the quality of the data collected in the survey. Cognitive pretests are used to check questions for comprehensibility and to identify respondents' problems in answering them before they are used in a survey. We support researchers who develop new survey instruments or adapt existing ones with comprehensive services.

Research tested Items

The GESIS Pretest Database is an open access repository that currently contains over 2000 questions or items that have been evaluated using cognitive pretests at GESIS. For tested items, the detailed results of the pretest are documented, as well as any suggestions for optimizing the items. A special search function facilitates the search for suitable items for your research project.

We consult you and conduct Pretests

Various methods are available for the cognitive pretesting of survey instruments. We will be happy to advise you on the selection and application of suitable pretesting methods with which you can evaluate your survey instruments. We are also happy to conduct the pretests on your behalf.

Cognitive Interviewing

In cognitive interviews, we examine the comprehensibility of questions, identify problems in answering them, and develop suggestions for improvement. The interviews can be conducted in person at our facilities, by telephone, or by video conference. To test questionnaires on mobile devices in terms of usability and layout, we have special cameras that allow us to observe and record the interaction between the respondent and the mobile device. Cognitive interviews are usually conducted with small case numbers of 10 to 20 test persons and are designed to last about 60 minutes.

Eye Tracking

In the case of cognitive interviews at our facilities, there is the additional option of using eye tracking to monitor and record the eye movements of respondents (in real time) as they answer a questionnaire. This allows additional problems of questions to be identified and more questions to be tested (Neuert & Lenzner, 2016a, 2016b). 

Web Probing

Web probing implements cognitive follow-up questions ("probes") into an online questionnaire. Respondents' answers provide information on whether all respondents interpret an item or concept in the same way, or whether there are systematic differences in understanding between different groups of respondents. We usually conduct pretests using web probing with case numbers ranging from 120 to 240 subjects. The online questionnaires are designed to take about 10 minutes to complete.

Coordination of Intercultural Cognitive Pretests

For surveys in several countries and/or languages, we conduct or coordinate intercultural cognitive pretests. Depending on the project requirements, we use the methods of web probing, cognitive interviews or the use of simultaneous interpreters. We also train cognitive interviewers in the participating countries.

Costs for Pretesting Services

The costs for conducting pretests are project-specific and depend on the number of test persons, the number of questions to be tested and the pretesting method used (see pricing overview (132 kB)).  We will be happy to prepare an individual offer for you. Our consulting services on pretesting methods are usually free of charge.

Here you can go directly to the request form for pretests. There you can quickly and easily request individual support from our experts. Please contact us as early as possible so that we can reserve a binding time slot for a pretest.

Our varied client list thus far includes a number of externally funded research projects, in addition to the following survey programs, institutes and agencies: