All Question Types Are Not Created Equal

Despite what your primary school teachers may have told you, there is such a thing as a bad question — especially when it comes to surveying.  The type and quality of the questions you ask will determine the type of data you receive, which ultimately determines the quality of the reports you create.  Good questions mean good data.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating survey questions:

1. If you want only one response to a question, do not give participants the opportunity to select more than one option.

2.When creating a rating scale question, consider making the scale smaller, not larger.  On a scale of 1 – 10, no one really knows the difference between a “9” and a “10.”  You will get more definitive data with a smaller scale.

3. Remember GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.  If you ask participants to enter a certain kind of information but provide them with open space and no formatting parameters, the participant can enter anything.  For example, if you ask me for my annual salary in an employee survey, but you only provide an open-ended text box, what is to stop me from entering a bunch of &*%^ (junk) symbols?  Format the text boxes to receive certain kinds of data — numbers, percentages, ZIP Codes, Social Security numbers, etc.

4. Don’t double dip when writing your questions.  Double dipping is when you combine two questions into one.  For example:  On a scale of 1 – 5, rate the quality of the hotel accommodations and the cost for the perceived value.  What does the participant do if the hotel was amazing but not worth $600 per night?  Create separate questions for each item.

These are just a few helpful hints as you build your surveys.  Happy questioning!