4 Tips to Avoiding Biased Language in Your Surveys

September 23, 2019

Market Research

4 Tips to Avoiding Biased Language in Your Surveys

September 23, 2019

Market Research

Gathering valuable survey responses is central to many organizations, so it’s critical that the results gleaned are accurate and unbiased.

When crafting your survey, make sure that you analyze the language that you’re using in the questions so it does not have an impact on the responses. 

Ultimately, you want the end results of the survey to provide actionable insights that can drive business, political, or other various kinds of decisions. Eliminating all hints of bias in your questions or responses is no simple task, however it is possible to keep it to a minimum if you are mindful.

Ensuring you aren’t using biased language

Prioritizing your survey language is crucial for driving responses that are uninfluenced and provide actionable information.

Although paying close attention to your word choice might not be the most exciting task during the survey creation process, it’s important and will help keep your influence out of your results! 

These tips below can lead you down the path to creating surveys that can provide valuable insights:

Use language appropriate for your audience

Getting a respondent to complete your entire survey is a hurdle in itself, so to minimize your drop-out rate, ensure that your language doesn’t create an isolating survey experience for your respondent. Your first priority is to avoid using language that may be perceived as microaggressions — if at all possible.

Participants are likely to drop out if they don’t understand what is being asked or if they have to think too deeply about what is being asked.

Steer clear of using technical jargon or acronyms if possible. If you do have to use them, make sure to explain their meaning to participants in order to get accurate responses. By being aware of the communication styles that are being used in your survey, you can help maximize the positive experience of your participants.

Eliminate double-barreled questions

Double-barreled questions are questions that contain two queries with an opportunity to only choose one answer that must apply to both. 

An example of a question like this could be: What is your view on our Instagram and our Facebook presence? 

Perhaps the viewer enjoys your Instagram feed but finds your Facebook presence to be lacking. This question provides no opportunity to specify that and therefore participants are required to choose an answer that may not be truly reflective of their views.

Make use of interval responses

While ensuring your survey questions don’t elicit biased responses, you should also focus on the response options you provide as well. Some surveys call for open-ended responses, but many do not. When choosing what response options to provide, make sure that you are providing enough options so that each person can give an accurate answer.

Including absolutes for your survey responses is another way of isolating your respondents. When crafting the questions, gravitate away from using words such as all, every, ever, and any words that are absolute in meaning. 

Providing interval responses is a great way to give a wide option for responses. Interval responses use a scale with options from 1 to another higher number (like 5 or 10) that correspond with labels such as strongly disagree to strongly agree or worst service received to best service received.

You can make use of these responses for all of your survey questions or just a few. Decide what works best for the type of survey you’re creating and what will provide you with the most unbiased results.

Keep it short and simple

It may be ideal to keep the amount of questions as low as possible. There are benefits to having as few questions as possible- such as reducing the rate of respondent drop-out due to the survey length. However, it’s crucial to keep your questions direct and to the point. 

Shorter questions that are clear and to the point help eliminate any confusion. You may be hesitant to include more, but remember that if your questions are long and confusing, you risk losing the participant’s interest and willingness to complete the survey.

Avoiding the bias

Surveys are only as effective as the results that they bring in for the end client. They’re an effective way to get feedback on your product or service — and can even lead you to identifying customers that would serve as great case study candidates. If you compose questions that lead to your team getting answers that display your partiality,  your results will not be regarded as trustworthy and in turn, will not be beneficial for making unbiased business decisions. 

Being thoughtful about curbing bias will ultimately help your respondents feel more open to respond with how they truly feel and will give you valuable insights that you can use within your organization.

Anastasia Masters is a Content Marketing Associate at G2.com. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in history. In her spare time, Anastasia enjoys eating her way through Chicago’s different neighborhoods, planning her next trip, and binging a new show on Netflix. You can follow her on Twitter at @anastasia_mm0.