What are the worst uses of a survey?
- Leading questions
- Unclear and complicated language
- Loaded questions
- Double-barrelled questions
- Double Negatives
- Absolutes in questions
- Confusing scales, answers, and format
- Intrusive Questions
Surveys are an essential tool for gathering valuable information from customers, employees, or a specific target audience. However, not all surveys are created equal.
In this article, we list down some of the worst use cases of a survey. These questions and examples lead to inaccurate data and negative consequences. So it’s best to avoid these when making your own whether it be school, work, or business. Keep reading to learn more!
There are many types of questions you can ask in a survey. However, to keep things objective you should avoid asking leading questions. These are conceptualized to push the respondent to answer in a specific manner. They often contain information that the survey creator wants their respondents to confirm. It can be intentional or not, so we must be aware of how leading questions are constructed to avoid them.
Example of a leading question: How short is James?
The word “short” brings imagination to your respondents’ minds. Fortunately, you can rewrite this to be neutral-sounding and avoid causing uncertainty to your respondents.
Appropriate question: How would you describe James’s height?
Unclear and Complicated Language
Regardless of who’ll the survey respondents will be, make sure that they can easily understand each question by using use clear, concise, and uncomplicated language. You might want to avoid using acronyms, technical terms, or jargon that might confuse your respondents.
Example of an unclear and complicated question: Do you own a tablet computer?
The question above confuses the respondents, especially those who are not tech-savvy or unaware of what a PC is. Plus, there’s no example of a tablet computer that would inform the respondents about what you’re trying to ask them.
Therefore, make sure to provide the necessary examples in your questions. That way, you can be sure that your respondents can easily answer your questions.
Appropriate question: Do you own a tablet PC? (e.g. Android tablet, iPad)
These are questions that include an assumption about the people answering the survey. They can appear very complex. Using loaded questions will certainly throw off your respondents, which leads to them abandoning your survey.
Example of a loaded question: Where do you enjoy smoking a cigarette?
When they read this question, respondents might raise their eyebrows. It’s because the question indicates that the respondents are smokers. It’s important to avoid writing loaded questions so that your respondents can answer them truthfully.
Appropriate question: Do you smoke? (Yes or No)
A double-barreled question is one of the most common survey mistakes. It’s when you force your respondents to answer two questions at once. As a result, it ruins your survey results.
To avoid this, your survey questions must be written so that only one thing will be measured. However, if there are two subjects in a single question, it’s best to separate them so that the respondents can answer them truthfully.
Example of a double-barreled question: How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the restaurant’s dishes and drinks?
Based on the example above, it’s better to break the question into two. Otherwise, you’ll receive dissatisfying answers from your respondents.
Appropriate question: How satisfied are you with the restaurant’s dishes? How dissatisfied are you with the restaurant’s drinks?
Aside from avoiding jargon and other technical terms in your survey, it’s also important to make sure that your questions are grammatically correct.
There are instances when a survey creator uses double negatives. Although it can be avoided, it’s easy to miss it, especially when you’re in a rush to conduct a survey.
Example of a double negatives question: Was the restroom not unclean?
Check for double negatives by looking for “no” or “not” paired with prefix words, negative adverbs, and exceptions.
Appropriate question: How would you rate the cleanliness of the restroom?
Absolutes in Questions
Words, such as always, all, every, every, etc. are absolutes that when added to survey questions force respondents to answer them without giving useful feedback.
Example of an absolute question: Do you always eat dinner? (Yes or No)
The question above would force your respondents to answer “Yes” even if there are some who don’t eat dinner because they’re on a diet or they simply don’t want to eat a meal at night. So instead of writing this type of question with limited options, try to come up with various options to make your respondents more comfortable in answering them.
Appropriate question: How many days a week do you usually eat dinner? (Every day, 5-6 days/ 3-4 days/ 1-2 days/ I usually don’t eat dinner)
Confusing Scales, Answers, and Format
Confusing scales, answers, and format is an error that often occurs in surveys. This happens when the questions are poorly designed, leading to ambiguous responses from respondents. It also occurs when the survey format is difficult to navigate, or when the options are inconsistent.
Example of a question with a confusing scale, answer, and format:
On a scale of 1-5, how often do you drink water?
1 – Never
2 – Rarely
3 – Sometimes
4 – Often
The scale, answer, and format of the question above may be confusing for some respondents because the options do not align with the scale provided. The options use qualitative language, such as never, rarely, sometimes, etc., whereas the scale uses numerical values (1-5).
Fortunately, there’s a better approach that can align the options and the scale together.
On a scale of 1-5, how often do you drink water?
0 times per day
1-2 times per day
3-4 times per day
5-6 times per day
7 or more times per day
Understandably, survey creators want to know as much as possible about their respondents. That being said, there are times when the questions are too sensitive to others. So, you need to approach them with appropriate questions.
Example of an intrusive question: What is your annual salary?
The question above is overly personal or invasive and can make the respondents feel uncomfortable. It’s important to write a question that won’t be too personal to answer but still provide the necessary information you need like the question below.
Appropriate question: What is your income range?
Surveys should be carefully constructed, designed, and implemented to avoid the worst use cases of a survey. In addition, they should be used responsibly and ethically to gather valuable insights that can improve an organization, services, etc.
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