Background Community-based studies of patellofemoral pain (PFP) need a questionnaire tool that discriminates between those with and those without the condition. To overcome these issues, we have designed a self-report questionnaire which aims to identify people with PFP in the community. Methods Study designs: comparative study and cross-sectional study. Study population: comparative study: PFP patients, soft-tissue injury patients and adults without knee problems. Crosssectional study: adults attending a science festival. Intervention: comparative study participants completed the questionnaire at baseline and two weeks later. Crosssectional study participants completed the questionnaire once. The optimal scoring system and threshold was explored using receiver operating characteristic curves, test-retest reliability using Cohen’s kappa and measurement error using Bland-Altman plots and standard error of measurement. Knowngroup validity was explored by comparing PFP prevalence between genders and age groups. Results Eighty-four participants were recruited to the comparative study. The receiver operating characteristic curves suggested limiting the questionnaire to the clinical features and knee pain map sections (AUC 0.97 95 % CI 0.94 to 1.00). This combination had high sensitivity and specificity (over 90 %). Measurement error was less than the mean difference between the groups. Test–retest reliability 3 / 7 estimates suggest good agreement (N = 51, k = 0.74, 95 % CI 0.52–0.91). The cross-sectional study (N = 110) showed expected differences between genders and age groups but these were not statistically significant. Conclusion A shortened version of the questionnaire, based on clinical features and a knee pain map, has good measurement properties. Further work is needed to validate the questionnaire in community samples.