How to Write the Perfect Survey

Have you ever had someone ask you to complete a survey whether at a school, restaurant, mall or within the workplace?

Surveys play a critical role in business and education alike. For starters, most companies rely on surveys to gain input from their prospects to develop effective marketing plans. The data gathered from respondents will then be analyzed and studied to improve company operations and eventually make better decisions. The challenge comes with conducting a survey well enough to generate reliable results. While there are many surveying mediums available for you to use, questionnaires are known to be the most cost-efficient option.

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Tips for Crafting Outstanding Survey Questions

Survey questionnaires serve as one of the most popular research tools used to collect any form of data. These questions may either be presented verbally through an oral interview or through a printed document (survey questionnaire). But the success of a survey lies on the quality of the data that was gathered. To obtain quality data, you need to make sure you ask the right questions.

Listed below are some tips and techniques on how you can write the perfect survey questions:

1. Define your goals.

Identify your purpose for conducting the survey. What do you want to achieve? What do you plan to do with the data collected? The answers to these questions will help you determine your desired objectives. A vague idea of what you want to achieve can eventually translate into ambiguous survey questions. To gather useful information from your participants, it would be best to use your life goals as a basis for constructing your questions.

2. Use simple language.

Using subtle wording can go a long way in constructing your survey questionnaire. By speaking in a language that is common to all, you can effectively communicate your message across to your audience. Refrain from using double negatives along with technical concepts and jargon, as this may be a bit too complicated for the average individual to comprehend. While there may be instances when unfamiliar concepts and terms must be used, make sure you add a few extra details to define it.

Keep in mind that words or terms used will greatly influence your results. Be careful with how you construct a sentence, as this may result to a different impression or meaning.

3. Start with easy questions.

The order of your questions can often contribute to the tone and feel of your satisfaction questionnaire. It’s important to take a funnel approach when doing this, where broad and easy questions are presented at the beginning of the document, while specific and sensitive questions are placed towards the end. Putting them in a logical order is advisable as well, where questions with similar topics are grouped together. If a respondent finds a tough question right at the very start, they’ll immediately assume the succeeding items are just as difficult. This creates a negative perception towards the survey.

While not everyone would be willing to answer questions they are not comfortable with, putting it at the end of your survey will increase your chances. At this point, respondents are already assured of the confidentiality and formality of your survey, or maybe they would rather just finish what they have started.

4. Make it specific and direct.

Always be specific with your questions. Asking, “Do you like apple pie?” can be quite ambiguous. A person could like the taste of apple pie, but not its texture. Maybe they like the apple pie their grandmother bakes, but not the ones being bought in the store. This can cause a person to be on the fence with their answer, leaving you with inaccurate results.

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Issues in interpretation, meaning, and frequency can also affect one’s response. Using words such as “often” and “regularly” can mean differently to different people. As mentioned before, proper sentence construction must be observed.

5. Cover every possible answer.

Multiple choice questions make it easier for you to tabulate and graph data. Although it is important to limit your options, you also need to make sure that every possible answer is covered. At times, including options such as “others” and “don’t know” can aid in obtaining more information. This will also help you build trust among your respondents, preventing the likelihood of questions being skipped due to disagreeable choices or sensitive questions. You can ask your respondents for truthful answers, but you can’t force them to respond with something they are not agreeable to.

Furthermore, ensure that answers do not overlap one another. This can cause confusion, making it difficult for respondents to provide clear and valid answers.

6. Avoid double-barreled questions.

Combining two different ideas into one question will cause uncertainty in the results. For example, asking the question, “What is the fastest and easiest way to get to the airport?”

For one, the fastest may not always be the easiest and the easiest may not be the fastest. The best way to gain quality results is to split the question into two sensible ones. This allows a participant to respond accordingly to each question.

7. Refrain from asking biased questions.

The way you present your questions, along with the words being used, can affect a respondent’s answers. But biased questions are difficult to avoid, although may not notice it at first. You could say something as innocent as, “How did you like our food?” and think nothing of it, but to someone else, the question is already leaning towards your favor. When this happens, try revising the question to make it sound more neutral. Have someone or a group of people test the survey to check for confusing statements and other pitfalls you may have overlooked.

8. Respect One’s Privacy.

Some respondents would rather stay anonymous, regardless of how simple your survey may be. That being said, make sure you provide assurance in terms of information confidentiality. If a respondent refuses to answer a question or is unable to offer you one, then don’t force it. Questions about personal issues, income, finances, and family life can be intrusive to some. This is why adding a “prefer not to answer” option is highly recommended.

Along with writing survey questions, including an introduction to request a response is essential. Surveying requires time and effort to carefully plan and carry out each step. It may seem like a daunting process to undergo, but it’s sure to bring you great results.

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