Keep Survey Questions Simple and Free from Ambiguity

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Well developed surveys eliminate respondent confusion by keeping your survey questions simple and free from ambiguity

When developing you survey, it is important to thoroughly review each of your survey questions. What may appear as a well-written, clear question to you may not appear as well-written and clear to respondents. When you start developing your questions, think about how each question will be read and interpreted by respondents. If time permits, consider pre-testing your survey questions with someone that is not familiar with your survey. Review their completed responses and discuss any issues the respondent may have encountered. It is important that your respondents completely comprehend your survey questions and be able to answer them in the correct manner in order to provide accurate, meaningful data. If the questions are confusing, you run the risk of compromising the accuracy of your survey data.

Additionally, when developing survey questions, avoid asking multi-dimensional questions (more than one dimension in a single question). For example: “Please rate the timeliness and quality of service you received from our customer service staff.” This question is asking the respondent to rate two characteristics of the customer service staff – timeliness and quality – in a single question. If the question were separated into two questions or broken into compound grid style questions, it would be much easier to interpret results. Furthermore, the respondent may have received service in a timely manner, yet received poor quality service. If a respondent is confused about how to respond, they may choose an inaccurate answer and create misleading data.

In order to eliminate confusion in your survey questions you should:

  • Be direct and to the point
  • Avoid ambiguous questions
  • Ask one clear topic at a time
  • Avoid long, wordy questions that could lose respondent interest
  • Avoid using jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms
  • Define potentially confusing terms
  • Proof and spell-check your survey questions

Well-planned survey question design gets you more accurate results.

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