Surveys and The Components of Precision Questions

As you develop your online, kiosk, mobile or paper survey, you should be creating questions that are as precise as possible.  Precision questions have the highest degree of accuracy and truthfulness as a result of the Respondents ability to recall events with ease. 

When asking questions about behaviors and activities, the following components contribute to improving the precision of questions: 

WHEN 

Specifying a time period for the respondent to focus on (During the past day, week, month, since a specific date) or ask for specific dates when the behavior or activity occurred.  Here are examples from a recent online customer survey

  1. Have you stayed at this hotel since January 1, 2011?
  2. What was your date of arrival?
  3. What was your date of departure?
  4. Did you play golf during your stay at the hotel? 

WHERE 

Specify a location or environment for the respondent to focus on.  In this customer survey, where did the event or behavior occur? 

  1. Did you play golf on the hotel golf course during your stay at the hotel? 

WHO 

Ask who was involved. The respondent as well as other participants 

  1. Did you, yourself, play golf on the hotel golf course during your stay at the hotel? 
  2. Did anyone in your party play golf on the hotel golf course during your stay at the hotel? 

When the question begins to get lengthy in the customer survey example above, the information about context (who, when, where) can be removed and included in the instructions preceding the question. 

For example: 

“The following questions relate to your own activities during your recent stay at the hotel, during that time:” 

The more precise your question, the more precise and truthful the answer will be.  This will ensure that you capture the accurate and valuable information you require for your survey research.

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