Write Better Questionnaires

How to Write Better Questionnaires

Writing great questionnaires and surveys can be a daunting task. There are so many variables, each of which can have a big impact on your results. Fortunately, there are some basic tips and tricks to use which will ensure that you write better questionnaires.

 

Set Clear Goals

Before you start writing your questions you need to have a firm grasp on what exactly you want to accomplish with your questionnaire. Are you trying to boost attendance at a yearly event? Or maybe you’ve lost regular customers and need to know what’s driving people away. A customer survey can give you a lot of insight, but only if you know what insights you’re looking for in the first place.

 

Use Clear Language

When choosing the vocabulary for your questions, make sure to use simple, easily understood words. No one should have to read your question two times in order to understand it. Also, stay away from jargon, as well as words with unclear meaning or that mean different things to different people. For example, the word “most” isn’t as clear as “almost all.” And jargon won’t be familiar to all your respondents which will confuse some. You want everyone who reads your questions to be able to answer them. Of course, if your questionnaire is only for hospital workers, then the jargon of that workplace qualifies as clear language for those respondents. Keep your audience in mind as you strive to write better questionnaires.

 

Short is Sweet

Unless motivated by a particularly rewarding incentive, respondents typically stop answering questions or randomly fill out the answers in order to finish if a survey is too long. Make sure your questionnaire is short and can be completed within a reasonable amount of time. A good rule of thumb is to keep your surveys between 10 to 20 questions in length.

 

Ask Only One Question at a Time

It’s very important to keep each question down to one topic. For example, don’t ask “How much money are you willing to spend on dinner and a movie?” Ask them how much they like to spend on dinner, and then another question about how much to spend at the movies. If you ask two questions at once, commonly referred to as a double-barreled question, you won’t know if the data you collect is accurate.

 

Don’t Ask Biased Questions

Like an attorney in the courtroom, you don’t want to “lead the witness.” Keep your questions free from opinions that lean toward a particular example. Don’t ask something like “Many people find the Windows operating system frustrating and slow. Do you think Windows is slower than other operating systems?”

 

Include an Opt-out

People will stop answering questions if they feel they don’t apply to their own lives and experience. Make sure to include a “does not apply” type option on your survey in case some of your questions provoke this feeling in your respondents. If they can check “don’t know” they are more likely to continue answering the questions they do have answers for.

 

If you take your time thinking about your goals and follow these tips, you will begin to write better questionnaires. Then, you will collect truly useful information.

PHOTO: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

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