Best knowledge for writing good survey questions

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WHAT IS A GOOD SURVEY QUESTION? GOOD SURVEY
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WHAT IS A GOOD SURVEY QUESTION?

A good survey question is one that allows us to obtain clear insights and business-critical information about our clients, such as:

  • Who is our target market?
  • How should our items be priced?
  • What is preventing consumers from purchasing from us?
  • Why do visitors abandon our website?

IMPORTANCE OF ASKING GOOD SURVEY QUESTIONS

A good survey question is asked precisely and at the appropriate point of the buyer’s journey to provide you with solid data on your customers’ requirements and motivations. The style of your survey—in-person, email, on-page, etc.—is crucial, but if the questions themselves are poorly written, you might waste hours attempting to address little issues while neglecting larger ones that a better question could have revealed.

WRITING SURVEY QUESTIONS

The design of questions that correctly assess the public’s opinions, experiences, and actions is perhaps the most crucial component of the survey process. If the information acquired is constructed on an unstable foundation of confusing or biased questions, accurate random sampling will be squandered. Developing good measurements entails both the creation of good questions and the organization of those questions into a questionnaire.

See Voxco survey platform in action

Take a guided tour of our platform with our on-demand survey demos. Explore our survey platform in short videos.

Questionnaire design is a multistage procedure that necessitates paying close attention to several elements at the same time. Because surveys may inquire about topics in differing degrees of detail, questions can be presented in different ways, and questions asked early in a survey may impact how individuals react to subsequent questions, designing the questionnaire is challenging. Researchers are frequently interested in tracking change over time, and as a result must be attentive to how opinions or behaviors have been measured in prior surveys. 

In the early phases of questionnaire preparation, surveyors may perform pilot testing or focus groups to better understand how people think about an issue or interpret a topic. Pretesting a survey is an important phase in the questionnaire design process because it allows you to see how people respond to the overall questionnaire and particular items, which is especially important when new questions are included.

For many years, surveyors treated questionnaire design as an art form, but much study over the last four decades has shown that there is a lot of science involved in creating a successful survey questionnaire. 

QUESTION DEVELOPMENT

Creating a survey questionnaire entails a number of processes. The first step is to determine which subjects will be included in the survey. This entails considering what is going on in our country and throughout the globe, as well as what would be of interest to the public, politicians, and the media.  We must also follow public opinion on a range of problems throughout time, so we make a point of updating these trends on a regular basis to better understand whether people’s views are shifting.

TYPES OF SURVEY QUESTIONS

  1. OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS

Open-ended questions allow our respondents to react in their own words rather than being limited to a set of pre-selected options (such as multiple-choice answers, yes/no replies, 0-10 ratings, and so on).

Open-ended inquiries include the following:

  • What more items do you want us to offer?
  • What would you change about our product if you could only alter one thing?

When should open-ended questions be used in a survey?

The bulk of the sample questions in this post are open-ended for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Open-ended inquiries teach us about client demands we didn’t know existed and shed light on opportunities for development we hadn’t explored previously. We can miss out on important information if we limit our respondents’ responses.
  • When we initially start surveying and gathering feedback from our clients, open-ended questions come in handy. If we don’t currently have a decent quantity of information, replies to open-ended questions will help educate us about who our clients are and what they want.

However, there are a few drawbacks to open-ended questions:

  • For starters, individuals are less likely to react to open-ended questions in general since they need more work to answer than, for example, a yes/no question.
  • Second, but related: if we ask numerous open-ended questions in a sequence throughout our survey, individuals may become weary of answering them, and their responses may become less and less useful as we ask more questions.
  • Finally, the information gleaned via open-ended questions will take longer to process.

compared to simple 1-to-5 or Yes/No responses—but don’t let it discourage us: there are plenty of workarounds that make it easier than it appears.

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2. CLOSE-ENDED QUESTIONS

Close-ended questions limit a user’s response possibilities to a pre-selected set of options. This broad group of questions covers the following:

  • Nominal inquiries
  • Questions on a Likert scale
  • Questionnaires with a rating scale
  • ‘Yes/no’ questions

When should we utilize closed-ended questions?

Closed-ended inquiries are particularly effective in two situations:

  • To launch a survey since they demand minimal time and effort and hence are simple for individuals to respond to. The foot-in-the-door concept states that once someone commits to answering the first question, they are more likely to answer the open-ended questions that follow.
  • When we need to construct graphs and trends based on responses from individuals. Responses to closed-ended questions are simple to tabulate and use as benchmarks; rating scale inquiries, in particular (e.g., asking customers to score customer service or on a scale of 1-10—more on this below), allow us to capture consumer sentiment and compare our progress over time.

3. NOMINAL QUESTIONS

A nominal question is a form of survey question in which participants are given many answer options; the answers are non-numerical and do not overlap (unless we include a ‘all of the above’ option).

Nominal question illustration:

What is the purpose of [product name]?

  1. Commercial
  2. For personal use
  3. Use for both commercial and personal purposes

 

When should we utilize nominal questions?

When there are a restricted number of categories for a particular issue, nominal questions perform well (see the example above). They are simple for people to answer and for us to construct graphs and trends from, but the disadvantage is that we may not provide enough categories for people to respond.

Get started with Descriptive Research today. Request a free 15 min product consultation call.

4. LIKERT SCALE QUESTIONS

The Likert scale is a 5- or 7-point scale used to assess a respondent’s level of agreement with a statement or the intensity of their reaction to something.

The scale grows symmetrically, with the median number (e.g., a ‘3’ on a 5-point scale) representing a point of neutrality, the lowest number (always a ‘1’) representing an extreme opinion, and the highest number (e.g., a ‘5’ on a 5-point scale) representing the opposing extreme position.

Likert-type question examples:

  • How strongly do you agree with the following statement: [company’s] payment method is easy and straightforward?

1 – Strongly disagree

2 – Somewhat disagree

3 – Neither agree nor disagree

4 – Somewhat agree

5 – Strongly agree

  • How satisfied were you with your customer service experience?

1 – Very dissatisfied

2 – Somewhat dissatisfied

3 – Slightly dissatisfied

4 – Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied

5 – Slightly satisfied

6 – Somewhat satisfied

7 – Very satisfied

When should we utilize Likert scale questions?

Because the responses are provided in a set sequence, Likert-type questions are also known as ordinal questions. Likert scale questions, like other multiple-choice questions, are useful when we already know what our clients are thinking. For example, if our open-ended questions reveal a complaint about a recent modification to your ordering procedure, we may utilize a Likert scale question to evaluate how the average user felt about the change.

5. RATING-SCALE QUESTIONS

Rating scale questions have responses that correspond to a number scale (such as rating customer support on a scale of 1-5, or likelihood to recommend a product from 0 to 10).

Rating questions include the following:

  • On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to suggest us to a friend or colleague?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rank our customer service?

When should we utilize rating questions?

A rating question is the way to go whenever we want to offer a numerical value to our survey and/or examine and compare patterns.

A common rating question is used to calculate Net Promoter Score® (NPS): the question asks consumers to assess their probability of suggesting items or services to their friends or colleagues, and the findings allow us to look at the results historically to see if we’re improving or worsening. Customer satisfaction surveys and product reviews (such as Amazon’s five-star product ratings) also employ rating questions.

6. ‘YES’ OR ‘NO’ QUESTIONS

These are easy questions that demand a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.

Yes/No questions include the following:

  • Was this article beneficial? (Yes/No)
  • Were you able to locate what you were searching for today? (Yes/No)

When should we use ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions?

  • Using ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, we can easily categorize our replies. Assume we’re seeking to figure out what hurdles or objections are preventing individuals from trying our product. We may put a poll on our price page, ask folks if anything is holding them back, and then follow up with the part that said ‘NO’ by asking them to clarify.
  • These inquiries are also excellent for getting our foot in the door. When we ask a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, the response takes relatively little effort. When a person commits to answering the first question, they are more likely to answer the subsequent ones.

WORDINGS OF QUESTION

The words and phrases used in a question are crucial in conveying the meaning and aim of the question to the respondent and ensuring that all respondents read the question in the same manner. Even little language adjustments can have a significant impact on the responses individuals offer.

A large amount of study has been conducted to assess the impact of different ways of asking questions and how to minimize disparities in how respondents understand what is being asked. The challenges surrounding question phrasing are extensive and cannot be completely addressed in this small space, but here are a few key points to consider:

To begin, it is critical to ask clear and detailed questions that each respondent will be able to answer. If a question is open-ended, responders should be aware that they can react on their own terms and what sort of response they should offer (an issue or problem, a month, number of days, etc.). Closed-ended questions should allow for all acceptable replies (i.e., the list of alternatives should be exhaustive), and the response categories should not overlap (i.e., response options should be mutually exclusive).

It’s also a good idea to limit yourself to one question at a time. Questions that ask respondents to evaluate more than one concept (known as double-barreled questions) – such as “How much confidence do you have in President Obama to handle domestic and foreign policy?” – are difficult for respondents to answer and frequently result in difficult-to-interpret responses. It would be more effective in this case to ask two separate questions, one about domestic policy and one about foreign policy.

Explore all the survey question types
possible on Voxco

Respondents are more likely to understand queries that employ basic and concrete language. When considering how simple it will be for respondents to comprehend and answer a question, it is also vital to consider the survey population’s education level. Double negatives (e.g., do you support or oppose denying gays and lesbians the right to marry) or unfamiliar acronyms or jargon (e.g., ANWR instead of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) can cause respondent confusion and should be avoided.

Finally, because minor changes in question phrasing might affect replies, the same question wording should be utilized when comparing findings to those from previous polls. Similarly, because question wording and replies might fluctuate depending on the mode chosen to poll respondents, researchers should carefully consider the implications on trend estimations if a different survey mode is employed to examine change in opinion over time.

QUESTION ORDER

Once the survey questions have been prepared, special consideration should be given to how they are placed in the questionnaire. Surveyors must be aware of how early-in-the-questionnaire questions might have unforeseen consequences on how respondents answer following questions. Researchers have shown that the order in which questions are asked may impact how individuals reply; earlier questions might unintentionally offer background for subsequent ones (these effects are known as “order effects”).

Responses to open-ended questions exhibit one type of order impact. Pew Research Center surveys typically begin with open-ended questions on national problems, attitudes about leaders, and other such themes. Respondents are far more likely to include concepts or concerns introduced in previous questions when replying to the open-ended question if closed-ended questions related to the topic are presented before the open-ended question.

There are two sorts of order effects for closed-ended opinion questions: contrast effects (where the order results in bigger discrepancies in replies) and assimilation effects (where responses are more similar as a result of their order).

When following trends over time, the sequence in which questions are answered is especially important. As a result, caution should be exercised to ensure that the context is consistent each time a question is posed. Any observable changes over time might be called into doubt if the context of the query is changed.

Like a conversation, a questionnaire should be organized by subject and unfold in a logical manner. Beginning the survey with easy questions that respondents will find intriguing and engaging is generally beneficial. Throughout the survey, make an attempt to keep the survey engaging and avoid overburdening responders with multiple difficult questions that follow one another. Demographic questions such as income, education, or age should not be asked near the start of a survey unless they are required to assess survey eligibility or to route respondents through certain portions of the questionnaire. Even yet, such topics should be preceded with more fascinating and engaging queries. One advantage of survey panels like the ATP is that demographic questions are generally only asked once a year, rather than in each survey.

BEST PRACTICES OF WRITING GOOD SURVEY QUESTIONS

A survey is only as good as the questions that are included in it. One of the risks of creating a survey is not asking the correct questions or asking them in the proper way, which might result in data that cannot be used or, worse, can lead us astray.

  • Start with the eventual goal in mind

 Consider what we will do with the responses and how we will evaluate the data. We can’t act on answers to questions we didn’t ask.

  • Avoid slang, jargon, and trendy language when writing queries that are appropriate for our audience’s level of comprehension

To ensure a general understanding among all respondents, while creating survey questions for the general population, the norm is to write at the 6th grade level. 

  • Avoid asking leading questions

Because of the way the questions are phrased, they might lead people to one response over another. “Have you heard of the Center for Marketing and Opinion Research?”

  • Be wary of queries that are both double-barreled and double-negative

Issues like “How would you assess the economy and job chances in Ohio?” are problematic since they ask for one answer to two separate questions. Because not everyone will connect these two topics, it is preferable to ask them separately. Double negatives can confuse and frustrate respondents, forcing them to abandon the survey.

  • It is OK to loosen our grammar

Relax our grammar somewhat so that our inquiries do not seem too official. For example, when the word “whom” is strictly valid, the word “who” is frequently acceptable.

  • Provide an ‘out’ for non-applicable questions 

Some respondents are unable or unwilling to answer certain questions, and in some cases, the question does not relate to the responder. If we compel them to choose an answer, they may choose not to complete the full survey. Provide alternatives such as neutral or does not apply to encourage survey respondents to complete the survey all the way to the finish.

  • Cover all alternatives without overlapping in multiple-choice questions

There should be no overlap in response categories. “How many days did you work out in the previous week?” “Is it 1-2, 2-3, 4, or more?” For those who have exercised twice, there are two possible responses. What about individuals who haven’t worked out in a week? How would they respond?

  • Response options should be well-balanced

There should be as many positive possibilities as there are unfavorable ones. ” How happy are you with your job? Are you completely pleased, mostly satisfied, or slightly satisfied? This question presumes that everyone is happy on some level, which is seldom the case.

  • Avoid providing too many responses options

There should be no more than 5-6 alternatives for survey questions that rate items in order of significance. The dependability of the response decreases as the number of things grows.

  • Last, request demographic information

Surveys frequently begin by asking for information that many individuals are reluctant to provide. By placing such questions near the conclusion, respondents have more time to become comfortable with the concept of revealing personal information.

MISTAKES TO BE AVOIDED FOR QUESTIONNAIRE

  1. Differences in comprehension and interpretation

The problem with not presenting questions to users face-to-face is that individuals may understand our queries differently. Without someone to adequately explain the questionnaire and guarantee that everyone understands it, the findings might be subjective.

Respondents may struggle to understand the significance of certain questions that appear obvious to the designer. This misunderstanding might lead to distorted outcomes. The simplest technique to deal with this issue is to ask clear, easy-to-answer questions.

Get started with Descriptive Research today. Request a free 15 min product consultation call.

2. It is difficult to express sentiments and emotions

A survey or questionnaire cannot adequately capture respondents’ emotional responses or sentiments. There is no ability to monitor facial expressions, emotions, or body language unless the questionnaire is administered face-to-face. Without these nuances, vital information may go undetected. Instead of attempting to interpret emotion in data, use a Likert scale, a response scale that frequently employs a rating scale ranging from “slightly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Instead of multiple choice, this enables for replies that are strong and assertive.

3. Personalization is lacking

The dominant marketing theme is customization. Unless time and attention are made to customize marketing materials, they risk seeming impersonal. If we are unable to add customization touches, some prospective responses may be turned off and ignore it. This is especially challenging when the questionnaire or survey is taken willingly on a website, independent of purchase or email address. Fix this by always sending emails including the names of the recipients. Use dynamic material on websites and make an effort to use names, personal data, and personalized information in all correspondence.

4. Unconscientious reactions

Every administrator wishes for conscientious replies, but there is no way to determine if the respondent truly comprehended the question or properly read it before responding. Responses are sometimes chosen before fully understanding the query or prospective answers. Sometimes respondents will skip questions or make split-second decisions, undermining the quality of our statistics. This mistake is difficult to overcome, but if we keep our survey brief and our questions basic, we’ll obtain the most accurate results.

5. Issues with accessibility

Lack of accessibility is a danger regardless of the mode of distribution employed. Users with visual or hearing impairments, as well as other barriers such as illiteracy, may find surveys inappropriate. This should be taken into account while doing research in this manner. Always select a questionnaire platform that has accessibility features.

Explore all the survey question types
possible on Voxco

Read more

See Voxco survey platform in action

Take a guided tour of our platform with our on-demand survey demos. Explore our survey platform in short videos.

See Voxco survey platform in action

Take a guided tour of our platform with our on-demand survey demos. Explore our survey platform in short videos.

4. LIKERT SCALE QUESTIONS

The Likert scale is a 5- or 7-point scale used to assess a respondent’s level of agreement with a statement or the intensity of their reaction to something.

The scale grows symmetrically, with the median number (e.g., a ‘3’ on a 5-point scale) representing a point of neutrality, the lowest number (always a ‘1’) representing an extreme opinion, and the highest number (e.g., a ‘5’ on a 5-point scale) representing the opposing extreme position.

Likert-type question examples:

  • How strongly do you agree with the following statement: [company’s] payment method is easy and straightforward?

1 – Strongly disagree

2 – Somewhat disagree

3 – Neither agree nor disagree

4 – Somewhat agree

5 – Strongly agree

  • How satisfied were you with your customer service experience?

1 – Very dissatisfied

2 – Somewhat dissatisfied

3 – Slightly dissatisfied

4 – Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied

5 – Slightly satisfied

6 – Somewhat satisfied

7 – Very satisfied

When should we utilize Likert scale questions?

Because the responses are provided in a set sequence, Likert-type questions are also known as ordinal questions. Likert scale questions, like other multiple-choice questions, are useful when we already know what our clients are thinking. For example, if our open-ended questions reveal a complaint about a recent modification to your ordering procedure, we may utilize a Likert scale question to evaluate how the average user felt about the change.

5. RATING-SCALE QUESTIONS

Rating scale questions have responses that correspond to a number scale (such as rating customer support on a scale of 1-5, or likelihood to recommend a product from 0 to 10).

Rating questions include the following:

  • On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to suggest us to a friend or colleague?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rank our customer service?

When should we utilize rating questions?

A rating question is the way to go whenever we want to offer a numerical value to our survey and/or examine and compare patterns.

A common rating question is used to calculate Net Promoter Score® (NPS): the question asks consumers to assess their probability of suggesting items or services to their friends or colleagues, and the findings allow us to look at the results historically to see if we’re improving or worsening. Customer satisfaction surveys and product reviews (such as Amazon’s five-star product ratings) also employ rating questions.

6. ‘YES’ OR ‘NO’ QUESTIONS

These are easy questions that demand a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.

Yes/No questions include the following:

  • Was this article beneficial? (Yes/No)
  • Were you able to locate what you were searching for today? (Yes/No)

When should we use ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions?

  • Using ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, we can easily categorize our replies. Assume we’re seeking to figure out what hurdles or objections are preventing individuals from trying our product. We may put a poll on our price page, ask folks if anything is holding them back, and then follow up with the part that said ‘NO’ by asking them to clarify.
  • These inquiries are also excellent for getting our foot in the door. When we ask a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, the response takes relatively little effort. When a person commits to answering the first question, they are more likely to answer the subsequent ones.

WORDINGS OF QUESTION

The words and phrases used in a question are crucial in conveying the meaning and aim of the question to the respondent and ensuring that all respondents read the question in the same manner. Even little language adjustments can have a significant impact on the responses individuals offer.

A large amount of study has been conducted to assess the impact of different ways of asking questions and how to minimize disparities in how respondents understand what is being asked. The challenges surrounding question phrasing are extensive and cannot be completely addressed in this small space, but here are a few key points to consider:

To begin, it is critical to ask clear and detailed questions that each respondent will be able to answer. If a question is open-ended, responders should be aware that they can react on their own terms and what sort of response they should offer (an issue or problem, a month, number of days, etc.). Closed-ended questions should allow for all acceptable replies (i.e., the list of alternatives should be exhaustive), and the response categories should not overlap (i.e., response options should be mutually exclusive).

It’s also a good idea to limit yourself to one question at a time. Questions that ask respondents to evaluate more than one concept (known as double-barreled questions) – such as “How much confidence do you have in President Obama to handle domestic and foreign policy?” – are difficult for respondents to answer and frequently result in difficult-to-interpret responses. It would be more effective in this case to ask two separate questions, one about domestic policy and one about foreign policy.