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Smart Survey Design

statements tend to be selected. If you want to avoid potential bias it is good to balance the scale (Brace 2004, 81).

There are some occasions in which an unbalanced scale is suitable. For example, in a customer satisfaction survey, few customers may say that something is “unimportant.” In the example scale below, the “important” will become the midpoint. In this scenario, you are trying to obtain a degree of discrimination between the “levels of importance” (Brace 2004, 82):

  • Not Important

  • Neither Important nor Unimportant

  • Important

  • Very Important

  • Extremely Important

Here is where you decide if you want to provide a “neutral” middle category to your scale. If a neutral choice is a possibility, then you may want to include a midpoint answer choice. However, if you want the respondent to take one side over the other, then an even number of categories is suggested. This will force respondents away from the neutral response (Iraossi 2006, 61). Some people agree that it is best to force the respondents in one direction or the other. If you choose the unbalanced form and force respondents away from the neutral alternative, then as the researcher be careful that this will not introduce bias into the data (Brace 2004, 84).

One final item to think about is a “Not applicable” or N/A answer choice provided in the matrix-rating questions within SurveyMonkey. By allowing respondents to opt out due to non-familiarity with the question or if it does not apply to their situation, this will help increase the response rate and quality of the collected data (Iraossi 2006, 61). Please note: the “N/A” rating scale option is not included in the calculation of the response average for the matrix-rating types in SurveyMonkey.

B. Question Sequence:

A good survey design should help to stimulate recall (if necessary); it should motivate the respondent to reply; and the survey should flow in an orderly fashion. The sequence of questions will help to create a certain flow to the survey. This flow will also ease or arouse the respondent’s interest and overcome his/her doubts about the survey’s intent. As a general guideline, there are three areas regarding question sequence: opening questions, question flow, and location of sensitive questions.

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