Survey Design Best Practices – Part 2


In my first post in our three-part series on Survey Design Best Practices, I listed five mistakes those of us writing survey questions need to watch out for. In this post, I have five more tips to consider that continue where the last post left off. If you didn’t read that post, you can access it here.

  1. Even if you believe you have every potential option listed, you might have missed one.  It’s a good idea to have “Other” as a response for many questions.  For example, if you are asking someone which industry they work in and have a long list of industries, there is always the possibility that someone doesn’t feel any of those fit him/her.
  2. Make sure each of your questions is clear. Survey design best practices suggest only asking only one question.  An example of a bad question would be “How satisfied are you with your doctor’s level of knowledge and technical skills?”  It’s possible that I feel my doctor is knowledgeable, but doesn’t have good technical skills, or vice versa.  These should be two separate questions.
  3. In market research, if you have multiple questions on the same topic, make certain they are asked in an order that avoids bias (the first questions bias the response to the subsequent questions).   For example, if you want to know how a commercial made people feel, you might ask them an open-ended question about their reactions before you ask a similar question with a specific list of response options.
  4. When asking people to rank a list of items, try including no more than five items.  Most people can comfortably rank five items in their working memory.  A different kind of question, max diff, is best for longer lists that need to be ranked..
  5. Use quantifiable questions whenever possible.  There are places to use open-ended questions, such as when you really don’t know what people will answer, but most open-ended questions can be turned into quantitative questions with a few minutes of brainstorming.  “What do you like about your doctor?” can turn into questions like “Do you like your doctor’s office?” and “Does your doctor give you enough information?” (this would include options such as “doesn’t give enough,” “gives the right amount,” and “gives too much”).

If you would like more tips like these, have questions or comments about the tips in this post, or have other questions about market research, please feel free to email us. We love talking about market research!

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