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Smart Survey Design

clear, direct, and brief questions will help the survey respondents to know exactly what you are asking. By making sure that the questions asked do not have more than one possible meaning also helps in preventing respondents’ confusion. Asking sensitive questions in alternate ways may help to alleviate respondents’ concerns. For example, many people may feel that income, age, lifestyle habits, etc. are personal and may not want to disclose that information. So when collecting a respondent’s age, a person may be more willing to indicate what year s/he was born rather than to state an actual age. Finally, take into consideration the capability of your survey participants. Some participants may not be able to accurately answer certain questions. If you are surveying employees, perhaps they cannot recall certain details of a project carried out years ago. Or if you are surveying a consumer product, respondents may not remember specific features about it (“Survey Planning”).

A. Question Intent:

Well-understood questions increase both the accuracy and frequency of survey respondents’ answers. While creating survey questions, keep these two fundamental questions in mind in regards to the intent behind the questions and the data you want to collect (Iarossi 2006, 44):

  • Will respondents be able to understand the question?

  • Will respondents be able to answer the question?

The legibility and relevancy of these questions will therefore play a key role on impacting each individual question’s intent. By sticking to these three following suggestions, you may increase the accuracy and frequency of respondents’ answers:

  • 1.

    Use legible questions – Ask questions that read well and are quick and easy to answer. This may help to keep the respondents from jumping to an answer before the question is completely read. Avoid writing questions in a complex structure; sometimes the longer the list of questions/answers, the lower the quality of the data (Iarossi 2006, 44).

  • 2.

    Use relevant questions – Make sure that all questions asked are relevant to all respondents and the survey’s purpose. In addition, avoid hypothetical questions (Iarossi 2006, 44).

3. Use painless questions – Questions asked in your survey should require a small amount of effort to answer. Most people prefer to answer and complete surveys quickly without thinking too hard or spend a lot of time. If the survey is too long or becomes tiresome, respondents may adopt strategies to get to the end of the survey as quickly as possible. For example, with repeated rating scale type questions,

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