10 Tips for Writing Quality Survey Questions

It pretty much goes without saying that quality survey questions are the basis for the success of your online questionnaire. If your objective is to find out the opinions of your customers, then the tactics to achieve that will lie with the creation and distribution of your online survey! We have put together our top 10 tips that will help you design a successful survey to meet your marketing objectives…

The goal for surveys is to get people to answer them and to provide you with useful, actionable data. So before you even type your first question into your survey maker, make sure you have clear objectives that specify what you want to accomplish by sending the survey and how you will use the results to make decisions.

Quality Survey Questions Cheat Sheet

Tip #1

Start your survey with interesting, easy to answer questions to immediately attract the respondents’ attention. These can be questions related to the theme of the survey and preferably asked in the third person. Place more difficult questions later in the survey.

Tip #2

Quality survey questions should be short, in addition to being clear and straightforward. If you need some help getting started, you can select a ready-made questionnaire template that you can customise to suit your needs.

Online Survey Templates
Fully customisable survey templates

Tip #3

Types of survey questions differ depending on the nature and amount of information sought. Choices can be made between open ended and close ended questions. The latter can vary from yes/no questions to multiple choice ones, rating according to scales, and so on.

Tip #4

Quality survey questions should strive to elicit the information you need. The ultimate goal of sets of survey questions that are grouped together should be to motivate respondents to reply to the best of their knowledge. To achieve this, the questions should follow in a methodical, common sense order.

Tip #5

Survey objectivity is of prime importance. Quality survey questions do not impede survey impartiality, and even the unintentional use of questions which lead to survey bias in some way should be checked for before surveys are launched. The use of leading questions, questions loaded in some way, the use of jargon which makes questions difficult to understand, or questions with suggested assumptions built in them should all be avoided.

Tip #6

Double-barreled questions, that touch on more than one issue but only allows for one answer, are another type of question that does not belong in a survey. This type of question is particularly misleading as the answers for each of the two parts have separate meanings that can be measured separately.

Tip #7

Another type of question that should be avoided is negatively worded questions which can also mislead respondents because answering ‘no’ creates a double negative. E.g. “Should the teacher not schedule a social event the same week as exams?”

Tip #8

Make sure you always use language that respondents will understand and feel comfortable with. Sometimes, it is ok to break the grammar rules for writing and use more everyday options, such as “who” instead of “whom”. Clear language makes online questionnaires easier to complete for respondents.

Tip #9

Multiple choice type questions should not have too many choices as answers. Long lists of options often make it difficult for respondents to evaluate them and make their choice. There is no hard and fast rule as to how many options is best, the key is to be as consistent as possible.

Tip #10

When inviting respondents to recall events as part of answering online survey questions, they should not be asked about events that date too far back in time, as accuracy will decrease over time.

Hopefully, our guide for writing quality survey questions will help you create a questionnaire that will meet your objectives by providing you with the data you need. A well-constructed questionnaire can be a powerful tool as described by this Marketing Donut blog. Observing the above-mentioned rules and avoiding subjectivity and misleading elements in questions is the basis for obtaining accurate and reliable responses.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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