Survey Design: Sequencing Survey Questions

When designing your survey questions, the answer to a question can be influenced by previous questions and by the answers given to those previous questions.  The order in which you ask your survey questions has a direct impact on how a Respondent will interpret and respond to your questions.  Proper question sequencing is important in all types of surveys including:  Online Surveys, Kiosk Surveys, Paper Surveys, Mobile Surveys and more.  

Example #1 from an Employee Satisfaction Survey:

In this first set of questions, “How happy are you in general” will be interpreted as excluding the work context because it is asked after “How happy are you at work”.

Example #2 from an Employee Satisfaction Survey:

In this second set of questions, “How happy are you in general” will be interpreted as including the work context, because, it is asked prior to “How happy are you at work”. You could inadvertently influence the outcome of the Employee Satisfaction survey by the order in which you ask these two questions. 

It is usual to begin with general questions, and then target more specific, detailed questions.  For low importance topics, the order may be reversed, as in the case with example #1.  Asking “how happy are you at work”, is more specific than “how happy are you in general”.  Specific questions can be used to help respondents answer the more general question. 

Selection of efficient survey software tools can make this process easier as a library of pre-written questions and question sequencing options are offered to assist you in designing effective surveys.

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