What are some tips for constructing effective surveys?
- Write questions with the five-step process in mind
- Create concise agree-disagree questions
- Don’t confuse your respondents when using rating scale questions
- Write every aspect of your survey in order
- Test your survey before distributing it
There might have been a few times when you answered online surveys. How did they make you feel? Were you frustrated by the experience? Did you feel overwhelmed or limited by the response options? Don’t worry—you’re not alone.
Another reason you’re reading this might be that you’re about to create a survey. If so, here’s our blog about tips for constructing effective surveys to help your mind brush up on the basics. Read on to make sure your next survey is a success!
Write Questions with the Five-Step Process in Mind
Answering a survey is like accomplishing a five-step process. Your respondents read the instructions and questions, analyze what it’s trying to assess, search their memory for accurate information, generate their thoughts into an informed judgment, and translate that to the best response option on your survey.
You have to keep these things in mind as you write questions to make your respondents’ task easier and get the market research you aim for.
In addition, you’ll likely encounter two types of respondents: optimizers and satisficers. The first ones are motivated to complete your survey and put all their efforts to answer it while the latter carelessly answer your questions – providing low-quality data by giving either neutral or irrelevant information. So, if you want your respondents to answer the best they can, construct a survey with simple, clear words. Avoid any double-barreled or double negatives that could burden them.
Create Concise Agree-Disagree Questions
It can’t be stressed enough that agree-disagree questions can sometimes bother many respondents. Here’s an example of double negatives and how to minimize them:
Question: When I look at the sky in the morning, I don’t see much to be inspired by.
- Strongly disagree
- Slightly disagree
- Slightly agree
- Strongly agree
Now, let’s rewrite the response options to avoid double negatives because of the “don’t” in the question that can confuse your respondents by trying to think about how grateful they are or not.
Rewritten item: When you look at the sky in the morning, how inspired are you?
- Extremely inspired
- Very inspired
- Moderately inspired
- Slightly inspired
- Not at all inspired
The rewritten item makes the respondents understand what you’re trying to point out better.
Don’t Confuse Your Respondents when Using Rating Scale Questions
We know how critical it is to construct a rating scale question as each point must be unique. As a writer, you must thoroughly consider whether your target respondents need a fine-grained understanding of your survey before being able to answer them.
You’ll likely get valid, reliable, and quality data if you have 5-7 rating scale options. Keep in mind not to include a neutral option if you expect to have satisficers among your target respondents. But the good thing is, a neutral option can be good for optimizers.
Here’s our not-so-secret tip: Always assume that every one of your respondents is a satisficer. It’ll keep you on your toes and on the lookout for neutral, unhelpful responses.
Write Every Aspect of Your Survey in Order
Writing the order of your survey and its options for each question can bring you effective results. For instance, if you’re constructing a survey online or in print, the respondents are most likely to choose an option listed first. On the other hand, those surveys that are given verbally tend to have last options be chosen more often.
We also want to point out that writing a survey in order provides you with more accurate, progressive data since the respondents are trying to discern as they answer each item, so, every response is closest to your options.
Test Your Survey Before Distributing It
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of pre-testing a survey. This involves reviewing it with someone similar to your target respondents to see whether any questions may be unclear or confusing.
The most useful pre-testing solution is cognitive interviewing. This is where you give your sample respondent an open-ended prompt and asks them to think out loud. This is an effective way to see where they struggle in each of the five-step processes of your survey. In this way, you’ll see how long it takes to finish your survey and you can also collect feedback from your sample respondents to improve it.
Surveys are an easy and cost-effective tool to figure out how your target audience feels about something you do or believe in. Applying these tips for constructing effective surveys will help you get the most out of your survey. They can be used to make informed decisions, too.
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