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How to write better evaluation survey questions

Posted on 1/7/2015 by Elizabeth in category: survey software articles

Getting helpful information is the goal of all evaluation surveys. To make this happen, it is both necessary and important to ask the right questions in your survey. These great tips will help you write better questions so that the results you're getting from your survey tool are more valuable to your organization.

Avoid Asking More than One Question at a Time

It's a common thing for survey writers to accidentally wrap two questions, which can often have widely differing answers, into one question. Not only can this practice frustrate the person taking the survey, but it also provides you with inaccurate results that aren't at all helpful.

One example of this would be for a restaurant to ask:

"Was your meal tasteful and presented in an elegant manner?" and allow the respondent the options of: Yes, Somewhat, No

The problem with this question is that it's actually two. The first question is "Was your meal tasteful?" The second question is "Was your meal presented in an elegant manner?"

The answers for these could easily be different and will ultimately be useless to you because you're not exactly sure if the person is answering either question (or which one) or both.

Do Not Attempt to Introduce Bias

Leading questions may have a direct impact on how the subjects respond. This not only hinders the purpose of the evaluation, but it can make the person taking the survey feel uncomfortable. Make sure the questions you use with your survey software doesn't attempt to lead the response -- intentionally or accidentally.

Instead of asking:

"A healthy breakfast promotes mental alertness, better health, and helps fight obesity, how often do you eat breakfast in the morning?"

o Daily
o Frequently (5-6 days per week)
o Occasionally (3-4 days per week)
o Rarely (1-2 days per week)
o Never 

Try asking:

"How often do you eat breakfast?"

With the same group of choices for the answer, instead.

Include Enough Answer Options to Get the Information You Need

Most business will not go to the trouble of using online survey software without having a specific goal or purpose in mind for how to use the response. With the information being this important, it's critical that you provide survey responders with enough options to give you the answers you want from them.

For the question, "In which industry are you employed?" and offering the options of:

o Customer Service
o Technology
o Medicine o Publishing

Consider offering the following as possible answers:

o Customer Service
o Technology
o Medicine
o Publishing
o Other (please elaborate): __________________

Skip the Negatives

It's not just the fact that negatives are, by nature, negative, it's also the fact that asking negative questions like:

"Do you generally not eat breakfast?"

Consider asking instead:

"Do you typically eat breakfast?"

Keep the Questions Short and Simple

It's really that simple. Questions that are long or complex can confuse and turn responders off.

Avoid Asking Questions that Lead

You're trying to find answers and you can't get the true story if you're leading the people who respond to the survey to an answer you'd like to hear.

Instead of asking the leading question of:

"Should the important school breakfast program continue to be made free to all students next year?" Which, through the use of the word important attempts to influence the people taking the survey, eliminate the word and simply ask the question:

"Should the school breakfast program continue to be made free to all students next year?"

Apply these tips to your next set of evaluation survey questions and you should get more helpful and useful responses from the people who take your surveys.

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