02 Dec 2014

Surveys: An ABC Guide, part 3

How do I word my questions correctly?

Well, they do say ‘Ask a silly question ...’. And there is certainly something in this. A very important parameter in a survey is the sample: creating a sample that represents the entire target group of the company.

Still, it is the questions that determine the information that emerges from the survey. And, of course, the purpose is to obtain as truthful a picture as possible of the circumstances being surveyed. A clear idea of the purpose of the survey is a must if the right questions are to emerge.

  • A good question must be easy to understand. Words and concepts must be interpreted in the same way by all those interviewed.
  • Ask about one thing at a time only.
  • Ensure that the reply options cover all possible responses to the question.
  • Do not use leading wording.
  • The questions should be as brief and uncomplicated as possible.
  • The questions should be worded so that the replies are precise.
  • The questionnaire should be easy to complete.


Different types of questions:

Open questions

Produce diverse replies and can be suitable for surveys about products. Remember that going through the replies is a time-consuming process.

Yes/No questions

Suitable for factual circumstances. However, they do not pick up hesitancies and reservations.

Questions with multiple reply options

Here, you put a cross against the options that you agree with. As the questions are easy to answer the response rate is often high.

Rating scale questions

Here, you must grade your answer, for example from one to ten.

It is important that the questions are presented in the right order. Easy questions precede difficult questions as this strengthens the interviewee’s confidence and gets them to relax. General questions must precede specific ones. The order of questions may be something like this: What is the interviewee aware of (e.g. the various suppliers), what has the interviewee been doing (do you use x?), followed by attitude questions (what do you think of x?) and finally personal questions (how old are you?).

The most important lesson is: Think it through first. If you have done a thorough analysis, know your subject (and if not, you should get help from an expert) and have understood the aims, you will have a solid foundation. Add to this a good sample and well-worded questions and your survey will be a success.


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