Surveys - the right way
The 1 Line Description
When to use it
A good survey is quick and easy for participants to complete – after all you’re asking for someone else's time to help you, so questions should use simple language and be straightforward to understand. You also want to to get meaningful results from your survey, so it shouldn’t contain any leading questions.
Avoiding Leading Questions
It goes without saying that leading questions will skew your results, however phrasing questions to avoid bias can be difficult.
Avoid asking someone if they like something
This implies there’s something to like in the first place. Always frame it so it’s okay not to like something.
❌ “What do you like about cats?”
✅ “What, if anything, do you like about cats?” “What is your opinion of cats?”
Avoid asking a respondent if they’re more or less likely to do something specific
As a general rule of a thumb, if you can answer “yes” or “no” to these types of question, they’re probably leading.
❌ “Are you more inclined to invest in the stock market now that interest rates on savings accounts are so low?”
✅ “How has your inclination to invest in the stock market changed compared to 12 months ago?”
Make a biased choice that is implicit in the question wording explicit in a list of choices that include alternatives.
✅ “How do you feel about the number of women Prime Ministers? ”Would like more? Would like fewer? About right?
❌ “Would you vote for a woman for Prime Minister if she were qualified in every other aspect?
Avoid implying an outcome
With this you’re implying there will be a saving.
✅ “Are prices typically higher or lower when purchasing online compared to offline alternatives?” “By how much are they higher or lower?”
❌ “How much do you think you can save by buying online?”
✅ “What should people be allowed to use for self defense?”
❌ “Should people be allowed to protect themselves with mace?”
Avoid emotive adjectives
Emotive words like “concerned” can lead the respondent away from the topic at hand. Instead, stay focused by only including what is needed in the question.
✅ “Do you think special car seats should be required for infant passengers?”
❌ “Should concerned parents use infant car seats?”
Avoid Loaded Questions
These type of questions limit an honest response as they assume something has already happened.
❌ “Have you stopped smoking?”
✅ “Have you ever smoked?”
Avoid Double-barreled Questions
This type of question forces a respondent to answer two questions at once.
✅ “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the pay of your current job?”“How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the work benefits of your current job?”
❌ “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the pay and work benefits of your current job?”
Avoid Using Absolutes
Absolutes in questions force respondents into a corner where they can’t give useful feedback. These questions usually have the options “Yes / No” and include wording such as “every”, “all”, “etc”.
❌ “Do you always eat breakfast?”
✅ “How many days a week do you usually eat breakfast?”
Keep the Number of Questions Short
Length can obviously vary depending on the topic, but a shorter survey will generally have a higher completion rate with fewer questions. Keep it focused.