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Avoiding Survey Bias – Ensuring your surveys get the right responses

Surveys are a valuable source of information to derive insights from. There are many factors that can affect the quality of the data you’re collecting. Survey Bias is one of the most tricky elements to keep under control when gathering data. It’s extremely difficult to discern if the survey results that you’ve accumulated have been tainted by bias in any way.

What complicates matters is that the bias is not always an intentional act on the part of the respondent. Sometimes people just tell you what they think you want to hear. In some cases, like in the healthcare or insurance industry, biased survey results can often result in conclusions that are negative or dangerous.

Humans are inherently biased by default, so the burden falls on the shoulders of the researcher to ensure that they manage to get what is unbiased and without prejudice.  

Are you sure you’re not the one responsible?

When creating a survey, you need to be careful not to frame your questions in a way that leads respondents on. It’s important to avoid polarizing or emotionally triggering questions unless absolutely necessary as an upset respondent is likely give biased responses.

It’s also advisable to keep your language as simple as possible. A person who’s unfamiliar with your product or service needs to be approached in a clear and direct manner, or you risk getting incorrect data.

Good design = Good responses

Responses to web surveys can be influenced by their overall design. A cohesive, well-designed survey interface is likely to get better quality responses. This design language needs to extend to mobile platforms as well – with smartphones being as ubiquitous as they are today, there’s a huge likelihood that your respondents will attempt your survey on a mobile phone or tablet

A modern survey platform can assist you in creating well designed, mobile friendly online surveys that help capture the data you need.

Know your demographic

Studying your demographic is a key part of making and distributing a survey, but did you know it’s a major factor in survey bias as well?

Surveys distributed to the wrong audience can lead to incomplete surveys and biased responses which will pollute your data.

Structure your survey

A key factor in reducing response bias is by making sure that the respondent has answer choices which are concise and not too wordy.

It’s best not to include additional questions within the primary question itself, as it can confuse or irritate your respondents.
You must also keep in mind that the people taking part in your survey may not be familiar with the topic they’re being queried on, so overwhelming them with information can have a negative impact and result in biased answers.

Do your respondents have an escape route?

Sometimes, even after supplying them with the necessary information, the respondent may feel that they just don’t know enough to answer the question appropriately.
This is perfectly acceptable and you need to account for it in your surveys by giving them the option to say so!

A simple “No”, or “Undecided”, or “I don’t know” or a “Beam me up, Scotty” can go a long way in ensuring the accuracy of your data.

Avoiding Survey Bias = Better Data

Surveys are data sensitive and can result in you having to deal with a mountain of analysis. Modern online survey tools can definitely help you in collating this data so you can glean insights from it, but you need to feed them with the right questions. 

Although it’s not feasible for your respondents to answer questions in a completely unbiased manner, a robust and carefully crafted survey can go a long way in helping you minimize bias.

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