The Ultimate Guide to Survey Questions
How to write great survey questions
Great survey questions reliably measure what it is you're attempting to ask and are the most important consideration when learning how to make a survey. Before you begin your questionnaire design you should review the topics you're wishing to cover in your survey.
Are their surveys which have already addressed the research which could help shorten the length of yours? Are there specific guidelines within your field for survey design?
Providing you've done your research the following tips will help to ensure you write good survey questions.
Tips to write great survey questions:
- Use short and simple language
- Ask for only one piece of information per question
- Avoid being too narrow or too broad
- Fit the level of knowledge of the respondent
- Place more general questions before the more specific
- Are reviewed by peers/experts
- If close-ended they include all possible responses
- They do not lead or include assumptions
What are examples of bad survey questions?
It's surprisingly easy to ask bad survey questions. The following example from pew research highlights how great an impact question design can have on results.
When people were asked whether they would favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein's rule, 68% said they favored military action while 25% said they opposed military action. However, when asked whether they would favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein's rule even if it meant that U.S. forces might suffer thousands of casualties, responses were dramatically different; only 43% said they favored military action, while 48% said they opposed it.
Bad survey questions do not measure what it is you're intending to learn. They're at best unreliable measures and often completely invalid measures. The follow is common in bad survey questions
- Include loaded assumptions "Please rate how much you enjoyed..."
- Use vague language and are not to the point "What do you think of the president?"
- Don't include all possible answers
- Do not precisely assist in understanding the research topic
- Asks redundant and unnecessary questions
If you're considering a career in qualitative research take a look at questions about questions
What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative survey questions?
Quantitative survey questions ask for values and are concerned with quantities or results which are represented with numbers. How much, how often etc etc Qualitative questions seek to learn about qualities which are subjective and are represented with symbolic language.
A prudent question is one-half of wisdom
What is the difference between open ended and close ended questions?
A close ended question provides a fixed number of options from which a respondent can choose from. It is important to ensure you have provided all the possible answers when asking a close ended question. Open ended questions allow the respondent to elaborate on their answer in a text box. There are no fixed options to choose from so it is important your question is specific.
The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he's one who asks the right questions.
Most popular survey question types
Multiple choice questions provide a fixed list of options from which a respondent can choose from. Multiple choice questions allow a user to select only one answer although survey designers often allow users to select 'Other' and enter an option which isn't listed. This is the most popular question type and you should prioritize it in survey where response rate is important. Multiple choice questions allow a user to respond quickly and easily which tends to improve response rates.
Text based questions are open ended questions which allow users to elaborate on their answers. You can allow a single line or multiple lines to prompt either a short or long answer in your survey. These type of questions are suitable when a user is motivated to respond and response rates are not anticipated to become an issue as they require more effort and time to respond to.
It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.