How do I word my survey questions effectively?
- Be precise and specific to get more valuable details from your respondents.
- Don’t make assumptions about your respondents.
- Be specific with the time frame.
- Add personality or impersonality; depending on what you want to get from your respondents.
- Don’t be intimidating or offensive.
When creating the questions on your website’s survey tool, you should not only be looking to create the correct content for the questions, but also how they are worded. This is of the utmost importance when creating surveys and is actually considered one of the most difficult things to get right. This is because even the smallest wording errors can cause the respondent to read a question in a different way from what you originally intended. The worst-case scenario is that the question will actually be misinterpreted! Oftentimes, this leads to a response bias, which then leads to inaccurate data. This will defeat the whole purpose of the survey in the first place; no matter how sophisticated your website’s survey tool is.
To avoid this from happening, follow the tips below:
Be Precise to Avoid Confusion
When writing the questions for your survey, you must always be absolutely specific in your wording to avoid confusion. This is especially because most questions have gray area answers.
For example, when asking for someone’s marital status, you must think if you want general details or specific ones. This is because, aside from someone being married or not, they can also be divorced, annulled, widowed, etc. So if you want to get the most accurate data for your survey, then you must word your question to get the answers you want. Instead of wording it as “Are you married?”, you can word it as “What is your marital status?” The former question wording will have the divorced, annulled, widowed respondents confused as to what choice they should make.
A good rule thumb is to never be vague and always give your respondents clear questions.
Don’t Make Assumptions
You must also stop to consider the kind of assumptions that your question makes. Certain questions along with their wordings can make it seem like that you are assuming that your respondents know a certain thing.
For example, if you ask a question like “How would you rate your happiness with your marriage from 1-10?”, then you are assuming that your respondent is married. Thus, it is an ineffective question to ask a general public; it is better to target this question for married couples. But if the former is your said target respondents, then it is better to break down the question into two. This first can be “What is your marital status?” If they answer “Married”, then they can be sent to the next question which will be ““How would you rate your happiness with your marriage from 1-10?”. Such a tunneling feature is usually found in the best website survey tools.
In this case, there is nothing wrong with the question wording as long as it is not on its own. If it does come on its own, then an assumption will be made that can lead to confusion among your respondents. This could lead to inaccurate answers or, even worse, respondents to quit a survey midway through. Thus, you should never assume when you’re making your questions.
Dictate the Time Frame
When you ask questions that have future-tense words – such as “will”, “could”, or “may” – you are actually setting the time frame to be anywhere in the future; be it far or near.
Take this, for example: “Do you think you will get married?”
Such a question has no time frame as compared to “Do you think you will get married within the next ten years?”. This wording will give you more accurate results, especially since there will be more certainty in the results. The former question may have respondents asking themselves “Within how many years exactly?”
Set the Level of Attachment
In this case, “attachment” means the level of personality or impersonality your questions have. It all depends on what you want to get from your respondents. If you really want to delve into their feelings, then you must make the question personal. However, you may want to avoid this for more sensitive topics.
For example, when asking your employee how they feel about you, you can word the question in several ways. Here are few of them:
- Are the working conditions at your workplace satisfactory?
- Do you feel that your working conditions are good or not?
- What do you think about my management of the company?
These are all different levels of attachment; from super detached to super attached. Again, it all depends on what you want to get from your respondents. Just take note that personal questions may need to be built up to instead of delivering it to their face. Doing the latter may intimidate your respondent and lead him to intentionally give an inaccurate answer. It may even offend him. This brings up the next point:
Never Intimidate or Offend Your Respondents
This goes without saying. However, you may be blinded at times because your cause is honorable that you may not know that your question wording may be offensive.
For example, you want to conduct a study on the effect of divorce on the children of the parents. You don’t go asking these children “What is it like to grow up with separated parents?” Such wording can elicit negative feelings and leave your respondents feeling apprehensive to answer your question. Instead, you can start with a question like “What do you like about your parents?” and build up from there.
As you can see, the importance of wording is extreme when it comes to writing questions. With how effective website survey tools can be at delivering them, a poorly worded question can even ruin a company’s image; especially when said query is offensive. So take note of these tips and apply them to your next survey to get the best feedback from your respondents.