Writing survey questions

After considering the bigger picture goals and objectives when designing a survey, the next step is to start writing survey questions. The survey questions you create must be designed to achieve your survey goals and objectives. They shouldn’t ask anything that is irrelevant.

Guidelines for writing survey questions

Here are some guidelines for writing survey questions:

  • Start with the survey objectives and work on each objective one at a time. Develop survey questions that will satisfy and meet each objective. The survey objectives must guide your survey question writing.
  • Keep all of your questions short and your language simple
  • Be specific in what you ask
  • Phrase your questions in a direct way
  • Keep all questions directly relevant
  • Use the most appropriate question type to to meet the survey objectives. Ensure that your question wording matches the scale and response options you choose.
  • Test the questions by asking whether they will achieve the survey objectives
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These guidelines will help you to stick to the point, and to get only the data that supports your goals and objectives.

Select the right question types

There are a number of different question types that you can use when writing survey questions. Once you understand the different question types, you can use the right question type to get the data that you need.

Quantitative questions

Quantitative questions are directly measurable. This means that you set up a list of answers and your respondents will choose from those possible answers. These questions will give you clean reports, easy-to-analyse charts, and will help you to identify patterns and trends. Make sure that your question wording matches the question type and response scale.

Qualitative questions

Qualitative questions are those that let respondents tell you the answer in their own words. Even though they can be more difficult to analyse, qualitative questions will show you exactly how your respondents are thinking.

To get the best results, you often need to use a combination of quantitative and qualitative survey questions. But remember: If you ask qualitative questions, don’t ask them up-front. Get buy-in from your respondents early with easy quantitative questions, and leave the free text questions to later.

Check list for writing survey questions

  • Think about the respondents and use appropriate language
  • Make your questions clear and as short as possible
  • Personalise the language where possible
  • Ensure that your question wording matches the scale and response options you choose
  • Make sure to use a time frame if important
  • Avoid leading questions
  • Avoid biased questions
  • Avoid double barreled questions
  • Ensure the response options are balanced
  • Don’t ask overly complex questions
  • Don’t make your questions too broad
  • Test your questions against the survey objectives
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