Criteria for Survey Question Writing

A survey is a systematic way of gathering desired information from samples or a group of individuals. To achieve this a researcher must go through a series of steps. The most crucial of these steps is writing the questions. The success of the entire survey is dependent upon the appropriateness of the questions. Questions must be constructed in such a way that it is capable of extracting the desired data.

The researcher must write the questions in a web survey in such a way that it is legible and relevant so that the respondent will not spend too much effort to answer just a single question. Also the type of question must be put into consideration. The researcher must know when to use a type of question. For instance when it requires explanation, a researcher can use the open- ended type, where the respondent can write his/her own answer.

Questions must be placed in sequential order to avoid confusion on the part of the respondent. Respondents are motivated to answer the questions if it is placed in an orderly fashion. The order of web survey questions should be from general to specific. The researcher must know where to place the sensitive questions.

Since every question is unique, there is no universally accepted manner of question wording. Yet there are criteria that can help in wording and structuring a question. The following are the criteria to bear in mind when constructing a question.

1. Brevity
Keep the questions simple and ask questions one at a time. However brevity is not about writing the web survey question the shortest way possible, its goal is to reduce the question’s length without losing its intent. Besides, the longer the question, the more confusing it becomes for the respondent.

2. Objectivity
The wording in the question should not imply a sort of bias. The following are the ways to keep neutrality in the web survey question’s wording.

a. Avoid leading questions
Example: Google, the largest and the most popular search engine in the world has upgraded their algorithm to better serve its clients. What do you think about this?
Replace with: What do you think about the latest upgrade in the Google algorithm?

b. Avoid loaded questions
Don’t ask questions that cater to the respondents ego or pride because it brings them to a particular answer.

c. Avoid built-in assumptions
Do not assume that the respondent is familiar with the specifications of the questions.

3. Simplicity
Use words that are simple and easy to understand in a survey. Avoid technical jargons and concepts. Use the same definition of terms all through out. Avoid double negative expressions and double-barreled questions because it tend to confuse the respondents in the web survey. Furthermore, avoid universal words such as always or never because these words deter the respondents from answering.

4. Specificity
Ask specific questions and are not too complex and undefined in a survey. Do not use abbreviations and spell words out when necessary to avoid confusion. Avoid words like “often”, “generally”, “usually” etc.

When writing survey questions it is of vital importance that the researcher must follow the aforementioned criteria in order to extract the accurate results.


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