What are the types of survey questions and when should I use them?
- Multiple Choice Questions
- Dichotomous Questions
- Rating Scales
- Matrix Questions
- Dropdown Questions
- Open-ended Questions
Questions are the main ammunition of surveys. It’s the way market researchers or businesses are able to receive feedback from clients or customers — by asking them questions. It may seem simple enough — just ask the question to get the information that you need and then let them answer. However, how you ask the question through the survey matters a lot more than you may realize.
To help guide you, we’ll talk about several common types of survey questions and when to use them. This way, your surveys will be more respondent-friendly, efficient, and able to yield good results. Keep reading to learn more about the following kinds of survey questions!
Multiple Choice Questions
Multiple-choice questions are the most popular type of survey question for good reason. They’re easy to answer, intuitive, and don’t take up too much time. With this type, you present several options for your respondent to choose their answer from. There are many types of multiple-choice questions as well, all used depending on your needs. The most common is the single-answer multiple-choice question, where there’s only a single answer for the question.
This type should be used for most of your questions for most types of surveys. Expect respondents to already be familiar with this format and its variations.
Don’t get intimidated by the fancy word — it simply means that there are only two options, usually “yes” or “no”. Generally, you would need to get as much information as possible for your surveys. Understandably, some questions would only need a yes or no answer, but most of the time, the question can be rephrased to get more information. If possible, turn that dichotomous question into a multiple choice question within your survey.
However, it is useful as a first step in survey research: the screening. Strategically placed website surveys use dichotomous questions to get the survey to reach the proper audience. For example, you may see a pop-up survey that asks, “Are you an entrepreneur?” or “Are you interested in x?” This way, only those who fit the demographic will take the rest of the survey.
Rating scales, also known as ordinal questions, use a range of numbers as a response to a question. This is often used for likeliness questions where the answer may be in a gray area. Some good examples are, “How likely would you recommend this to a friend?” or “How likely will you avail our product/service again?” They can then make a selection from 1-10 or whatever numerical range you want.
This type of survey question is perfect for surveys where you need to ask a series of questions with the same range of answers. Some even use this format to ask for a rating instead of a rating scale. They’re great to use if you want to simplify large surveys as it makes answering them seem easier than if formatted as multiple-choice questions. The respondent will be presented with a table-like format, with the first column containing the “questions” and the other columns being options or answers.
For example, a general question could be, “How often do you do the following:” The first column would include activities such as visiting websites, sending emails, playing games, etc. The other columns would contain the options for their answer like Never, Rarely, Seldom, Often, and Always.
If you have to ask a question where the answer could be any of a large range of answers, then you can use a dropdown question. These questions let respondents use a dropdown bar that contains all the answers. Think of forms where you need to input your year of birth. Wouldn’t you use a dropdown menu to find your year of birth? Those menus often have almost a hundred choices to choose from. Something that would be impossible with other types of survey questions.
As the name suggests, these questions give the respondents the freedom to answer however they like through a text box. With these questions, the respondents would not have options to choose from, so the researcher should be prepared for whatever it may yield. Generally, we want our respondents to spend as little time as possible with our survey and make it easy for them to answer. That’s why open-ended questions are not recommended in surveys unless absolutely necessary. Moreover, it would be difficult to include narrative or open-ended answers in data analysis.
Ultimately, the performance and willingness of respondents during a survey are due to plenty of other factors. But we must still recognize the importance of the effect of the types of survey questions our survey uses. By learning about these types and when to use them, you should be able to create more meaningful and successful surveys.
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