The qualitative attributes and quantitative measurement properties of physical activity questionnaires are equally important considerations in questionnaire appraisal, yet fundamental aspects such as question comprehension are not often described in the literature. Here we describe the use of cognitive interviewing to evaluate the Sedentary Time and Activity Reporting Questionnaire (STAR-Q), a self-administered questionnaire designed to assess overall activity energy expenditure and sedentary behavior.
Several rounds of one-on-one interviews were conducted by an interviewer trained in qualitative research methods. Interviewees included a convenience sample of volunteers and participants in the Tomorrow Project, a large cohort study in Alberta, Canada. Following each round of interviews the STAR-Q was revised and cognitively tested until saturation was achieved.
Six rounds of cognitive interviewing in 22 adults (5 males, 17 females) age 23-74 years, led to revisions involving 1) use of recall aids; 2) ambiguous terms; and 3) specific tasks, such as averaging across multiple routines, reporting time asleep and self-care, and reporting by activity domain.
Cognitive interviewing is a critical step in questionnaire development. Knowledge gained in this study led to revisions that improved respondent acceptability and comprehension of the STAR-Q and will complement ongoing validity testing.