10 Tips For Writing Quality Survey Questions

Philip Cleave
September 6, 2023
Employees discuss possible survey questions for a questionnaire.

Unquestionably, the crux of a successful online survey hinges on the quality of its questions. Should your primary aim be to capture the insights and perspectives of your customers, then your strategy will be deeply intertwined with the creation, dissemination, and analytical interpretation of your online questionnaire.

To aid you in this endeavour, we've meticulously compiled our top 10 comprehensive guidelines to assist you in designing a survey that will not only meet but exceed your marketing goals (you can also find a range of sample survey questions here).

Before you even consider entering your first question into your chosen survey platform, it's paramount to delineate clear and focused objectives. So before you even type your first question into your survey maker, make sure you have clear objectives that specify what you want to accomplish by sending the survey and how you will use the results to make decisions.

Quality survey questions cheat sheet

Tip #1

Initiate your survey with engaging, straightforward questions that will instantly captivate the interest of your respondents. These introductory questions should be inherently connected to the survey's overarching theme and are ideally phrased in the third person. More complex or thought-provoking questions should be strategically positioned later in the survey.

Tip #2

Concise, lucid, and to-the-point survey questions will help you elicit more accurate responses. If you find yourself stuck while crafting questions, don't hesitate to utilise pre-designed questionnaire templates, which you can then modify according to your unique requirements.

Tip #3

The type of questions you employ will vary depending on the scope and complexity of the information you're seeking. You have the freedom to choose between open-ended questions that solicit subjective responses, and closed-ended questions that range from binary 'yes/no' options to multiple-choice or even scaled rating options.

Tip #4

Each question should serve a distinct purpose in eliciting the precise information you require. Groupings of questions should be arranged in a logical and intuitive sequence, encouraging respondents to provide answers to the best of their ability and knowledge.

Tip #5

Upholding objectivity in your survey is crucial, so questions should be constructed in such a way as to maintain the survey's impartiality. Scrutinise each question to ensure it doesn't introduce bias, either intentionally or inadvertently. Eliminate leading questions, loaded phrases, technical jargon, or built-in assumptions that could skew responses.

Tip #6

Double-barrelled questions, which address more than one issue but only permit a single answer, are particularly problematic and should be eschewed. These questions can confound respondents, as they may have divergent opinions on the multiple issues being queried.

Tip #7

Similarly, negatively phrased questions can cause confusion and generate inaccurate responses. An example would be, "Should the instructor refrain from organising a social gathering during exam week?" Questions like this should be avoided.

Tip #8

Employ language that is both comprehensible and comfortable for the respondents. Occasionally, linguistic conventions can be relaxed in favour of more colloquial alternatives, like using 'who' instead of 'whom', to make the survey more accessible.

Tip #9

When crafting multiple-choice questions, refrain from overwhelming respondents with a lengthy list of options. Extensive lists can make it arduous for respondents to sift through choices and select the most suitable answer. Consistency in the number of choices across questions is advised.

Tip #10

If your survey requires respondents to recall past events, limit questions to relatively recent occurrences. Human memory is fallible, and the accuracy of recollections diminishes as time passes.

Wrapping up

Hopefully, our guide for writing quality survey questions will help you create a questionnaire that will meet your objectives by providing you with the data you need. A well-constructed questionnaire can be a powerful tool as described by this Marketing Donut blog. Observing the above-mentioned rules and avoiding subjectivity and misleading elements in questions is the basis for obtaining accurate and reliable responses.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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