There are several prerequisites for creating successful surveys which yield reliable data. Choosing the correct types of questions to include in a survey is among the most important factors for the success of online surveys. It is the starting point, as the manner in which information is rendered and the type of question selected can be of tremendous importance for the success of the survey. Before starting to compose the questions for online surveys, their authors should first ask themselves how they are going to use the survey results. Thus, having identified the goals of the survey, as well as the information they would like to collect, survey question authors can get clear ideas of the survey question types to choose.
The main types used for questions in online surveys include multiple questions, rating scales, comments/essay box questions, demographic questions. They all have their appropriateness, and when they are used correctly, they enhance the effectiveness of surveys.
Multiple choice questions enable respondents to choose one or more options from a list of answers provided after the questions. They are appropriate for cases when authors have a fixed number of options in mind. Multiple choice questions are most suitable for demographic questions and for other questions which need respondents to select among a given set of responses, and either select the best answer, or all options which apply.
Rating scales invite respondents to select a single rating for a question, on a continuum of possible questions. This is a type which is very appropriate for customer satisfaction surveys, where rating scales help to measure customers’ opinions. Ratio scale questions are suitable for situations in which respondents should give some physical measures, e.g. incomes, years of education, etc.
Comments/essay box questions invite respondents to enter their answers into comment boxes. Here respondents do not have preset answer options. Responses can be reviewed and analysed by means of complex text analysis tools.
Demographic questions are used in online surveys to gather information about respondents’ background, their incomes, etc.
Another general division according to type of questions is the division into close ended questions and open ended questions. The former are of leading character, with answer choices provided. The latter invite respondents to answer freely and state their opinion frankly. Open ended questions comprise demographic questions, comment/essay box questions, and multiple choice questions and rating scales belong to closed questions.
Building successful online surveys is a complicated task. There is no limit to as to the different combinations of questions to include in a survey. Question format influences the analysis of online surveys. It is crucial to choose the suitable question type in order to pose questions to respondents in the best manner. Open ended questions should be used in online surveys when it is necessary to generate more detailed answers, or to gather information which, according to the feeling of respondents, has not been covered in the close ended questions. But these types of questions should be used with caution and sparingly, as they are burdening to respondents, and also burdening for the analysis.