When Designing Surveys, Consider Question Types

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When designing your surveys, take question types into serious consideration

There are several great ways to format survey questions, but often times, there is a best format type for each question. The chart below displays the main survey question types with specific  question examples.


Survey Question Type Survey Question Example
Single-response Which of the following colors is your favorite?

  • Red
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Other _________
  • None of the above
Multiple-response Which of the following board games do you regularly play?

  • Scrabble
  • Monopoly
  • Life
  • Clue
  • Sorry!
  • Other __________
  • None of the above
Rating-scale Please rate your overall satisfaction with our service where 1 = completely dissatisfied and 10 = completely satisfied.                                                          1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   N/A
Ranking Please rank these colors in order from your favorite (#1) to your least favorite (#4).

  • Green
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Yellow

Please describe why [xxxx] is your favorite color. ______________________________

Additionally, each survey question type has pros and cons, which you should take into consideration. The pros and cons of survey question types are noted in the chart below.

Survey Question Type Pros Cons
  • Easiest response type
  • Familiar response type
  • East to analyze
  • Provides little data
  • Simple for respondents
  • Familiar response type
  • Slightly longer to complete than a “single-response” question.
  • Does not differentiate between response options
  • Provides a scaled differentiation between response options
  • Many scale options to use: numeric, verbal, Likert, etc.
  • Respondents may interpret the scale in their own way
  • Respondents may not differentiate response options if options are allowed to receive the same rating
  • Differentiates response options
  • Takes longer to complete – additional thought is needed
  • Respondents make rating mistakes
  • Respondents get confused with rating response options
  • Provides the most feedback
  • Difficult to analyze
  • Difficult to summarize results
  • Does not work well in self-administered surveys

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