The Basics of Composing Proper Survey Questions

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When designing surveys, there are basic elements to consider when composing properly designed survey questions

survey-designAs you begin to plan and develop your survey, you must first determine what information you want to collect, which then guides you through choosing which questions to ask, how to ask them, and of whom. Be precise. you should be creating questions that are as precise as possible.  Precision questions have the highest degree of accuracy as a result of the participants’ ability to recall events with ease. When asking questions about events, activities, and behaviors, the following components contribute to improving the precision of your survey questions. 


Specify a time period for the participant to focus on (i.e. during the past day, week, month), or ask for specific dates when the event, activity, or behavior occurred.  Here are examples from a an online customer survey:

  • Have you stayed at this hotel since February 1, 2015?
  • What was your date of arrival?
  • What was your date of departure?
  • Did you play golf during your stay at the hotel?


Specify a location or environment for the participant to focus on.  For example, in a hotel customer survey, where did the event, activity, or behavior occur? For example:

  • Did you play golf on the hotel golf course during your stay at the hotel?
  • Did you dine in the hotel restaurant during your stay at the hotel?
  • Did you access free wifi while in your hotel room?


Ask who was involved in the event, activity, or behavior, including the participant of the survey and any other participants. For example:

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

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

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