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Survey methodology is about asking the right questions

Posted on 9/4/2014 by Elizabeth in category: survey software articles

Asking the right question is the only way to get the precise answers you're looking for. When it comes to surveys though, it's not always easy to know which questions are the right questions to ask. This primer should help you with the question design aspect of your survey methodology so you can get the answers you really want from your online survey software.

Framing Your Question

Duke University advises that the wording of the questions is vital to the success of any survey. Here are a few of the suggestions they made that will help you frame better questions, designed to get specific responses from your surveys.

Keep it Simple Silly. The K.I.S.S. method is a tried and true winner for a wide variety of things including survey question. Compound sentences and ambiguities confuse your audience and do not net the quality response you're hoping for.

Ask One Question at a Time. Compound or double questions may have survey takers answering a question other than the one intended.

Use Words Sparingly. Ask what needs to be asked, but use no more words than necessary to do so.

Clarify Confusing Questions. Sometimes, this involves explaining definitions. Other times it means that you must break down a larger question into several smaller or qualifying questions.

Skip Loaded or Leading Questions. The goal of a survey is to find out what's really on the minds of the survey participants. Working to manipulate data to draw a certain confusion undermines the survey results altogether.

The point is that asking the right question in the right way is much more likely to get reliable, actionable information from the survey tool.

Types of Questions to Ask

There are several different types of questions you can ask through the survey software. Each one offers its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses that should help you narrow down the best types of questions to ask on your survey.

Closed Ended Questions

These questions limit the answers to those provided in the survey itself. They can be yes or no answers, scaled responses, or multiple choice. Below is an example of a closed ended question.

How many times a day do you brush your teeth?

A. 0
B. 1
C. 2
D. 3 or more

The advantage of closed ended questions is that it's easy to code and interpret the data. The disadvantage, though, is that the answers you provide may not always be accurate for the survey taker.

Open Ended Questions

These questions do not predefine options, which means participants provide their own answers to the question. While the advantage is that every participant is able to provide a specific and precise answer, the disadvantage is the time consuming process of coding and interpreting the data generated by the survey software.

An example of this type of questionnaire would be:

Describe a perfect day.

Scaled Questions

These questions measure the degree of response by participants. While they are quick and easy to complete and code, they also require intimate familiarity with the product, topic, or service in order to right questions. Questions may be similar to the one below.

I was happy with the level of service I received from my customer service representative.

A. Strongly agree
B. Agree
C. Neither disagree or agree
D. Disagree
E. Strongly disagree

As you can see, there are many steps involved in asking the right questions for your survey. Once you figure out the right questions to ask, all that remains is to load them into the survey tool so that people can access and answer them via the online survey software.

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