Surveys and questionnaires are popular methods of gathering qualitative data for research projects. A poorly designed survey, though, can confuse participants and lead to inaccurate responses.
In today’s post, therefore, we’ll guide you through the main points to consider when creating an effective survey or questionnaire:
- Be clear about the survey’s objectives.
- Use simple, concise language.
- Ask scaled response questions.
- Keep the survey as brief as possible.
- Check your survey for errors.
Read on to get the most out of our top tips for creating surveys.
1. Set Out the Objectives of Your Survey
Before you begin writing questions, you need to know exactly what you want your survey to achieve. Only when you have a defined goal in mind will you be able to design questions that will capture relevant data.
It can be helpful to briefly explain the survey’s purpose to the participants. If people know what your research is about, they’ll feel more inclined to take part, and their answers will be suitably focused. However, you must be careful to describe the research objectives in a way that won’t influence responses.
2. Ask Straightforward Questions
When you write the questions for your survey, you should keep in mind the following:
● Use simple, everyday language, rather than unnecessarily long words and jargon:
Have you ever ingested natural nutraceutical products as a means to alleviate insomnia? ✘
Have you ever used an herbal remedy for a sleep problem? ✔
● Construct your questions clearly, taking special care to avoid double negatives:
Do you never miss out on getting eight hours’ sleep? ✘
Do you sleep for at least eight hours every night? ✔
● Ask one question at a time:
Do you avoid caffeine and video games after 9.00 pm? ✘
Do you avoid caffeinated drinks after 9.00 pm? and Do you play video games after 9.00 pm? ✔
● Use neutral language:
Does valerian root extract make you feel more relaxed? ✘
Describe how you feel after taking valerian root extract. ✔
The acronym SCAN is a handy way to check that you’ve addressed these points for each question – Simple words, Clear construction, Asking one question at a time, and Neutral language.
3. Use Scaled Response Questions When Possible
Sometimes, you can find out what you want to know with a binary question, that is, one that offers two mutually exclusive answers:
Pugs make the best pets: True / False
Similarly, multiple choice questions give the respondent a range of possible answers to choose from:
Which of these is your favorite breed of dog?
Pug / Labrador / Bulldog / Poodle / Beagle / Other
However, you can often capture more meaningful data by using response scales. This is especially true when you want to learn about people’s attitudes and behavior:
How cute are pugs?
Extremely cute / Very cute / Moderately cute / Slightly cute / Not at all cute
When compiling a response scale question, it’s important to offer a balanced range of possible answers. You should aim for an odd number of possible responses, with the one at the mid-point being neutral:
Everyone should own a pug: Strongly agree / agree / neither agree nor disagree / disagree / strongly disagree
4. Keep it Short
In most cases, your participants will be offering their time to complete your survey free of charge. You should, therefore, seek to make the whole process as straightforward and as brief for them as possible.
Ensure that every question you ask relates directly to the survey’s objectives. Only ask for demographic information (e.g., age, occupation) if it’s relevant to your research.
We suggest that you begin your survey with a few simple binary or multiple-choice questions, and place the more complex questions further on. That way, participants will feel “invested” by the time they get to the more elaborate questions.
If you have any open-ended questions – ones that ask the respondent to answer in their own words – you should place these toward the middle of the survey. This is to ensure that participants are fully engaged and not yet wondering how much is left!
5. Make Sure Your Survey is Error-Free
Perfect grammar and spelling will add credibility to your survey, so be sure to proofread it before you invite people to complete it.
If you use an online survey builder like Surveymonkey or Typeform, you’ll be required to enter your questions straight onto the website, making proofreading more difficult. However, you can avoid mistakes by copying and pasting your questions from a document that’s already been proofread.
Our team of proofreading experts is available around the clock and will return most documents within 24 hours, error-free.
To try out our proofreading service for free, upload a trial document today.