Creating Survey Questions Tips

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Why should you review surveys before sending them out?

Sample Before You Send

Surveys offer you critical data, and it's important to ensure that your survey reads well and offers clean copy to the survey-taker.

To be on the safe side, have a pool of three or four co-workers take the survey before you send it out. Their fresh set of eyes will probably catch more mistakes that you missed, or offer ways of rephrasing questions to get a better answer. Make sure you get people from relevant departments to take a look.

Why should you keep survey questions current?

Keep It More “Now” Than “Then”:

What did you wear last Thursday? Not top of mind, huh? Our memories can stretch back pretty far, but the farther back we go the chances are that we can only recall a major memory. Make sure your survey questions ask users to recall only recent events.

Ask about things that happened within a few days, weeks or even a month ago, rather than a year. This will guarantee that the user recalls their most recent memory for the question asked.

Why shouldn't you create complex questions for your survey?

Ask Questions They Can Answer

Survey questions should be easy to understand, and easy to answer. Complicated questions that require processing won't generate a very good response. Stay away from the word problems that continue to haunt you...

"A train is leaving London at 10am. It makes 12 stops in 60 minutes. Each stop is approximately 5 kilometers away from each other..." Word problems are complex questions that require a complex answer. You won't get people past the first survey question, so make sure the questions you ask can be answered simply. Avoid complicated, philosophical meanderings that will leave the survey takers wanting to leave your survey on the table.

Why should your survey maintain an order?

Maintain Order

Survey designs should flow easy. Try to organize your survey into mini-sections, especially if you are dealing with a lot of questions. If the survey has an apparent logic to the questions and order of questions, people will have an easier time keeping their focus on the topic at hand. This will translate into well thought out answers.

The best way to design a survey is by asking a general question first. Then follow up with more specific questions pertaining to that topic.

What is the maximum amount of answers you should have for multiple choice questions?


Sample surveys all have one thing in common: close-ended questions that offer a short list of possible answers.

If you find that one question does lend itself to a lot of multiple answers, try to break the question up into two different questions. Or, offer an open-ended question where the user can respond with their own answers.

Another solution is using the Likert Scale. This format works well in this situation because you always offer the same type of answers that include:

  • I strongly agree
  • I agree
  • I neither agree or disagree
  • I disagree
  • I strongly disagree

Why would you look in magazines for survey samples?

Sample A Survey At The Newsstand

Looking for sample surveys? Thumb through your favorite magazine, and chances are you'll find at least one or two surveys inside. Usually, magazines create mini-surveys attached to subscription cards.

One of the best reasons to peruse the magazine surveys is for design ideas. Notice how relaxed the language is, and how easily thoughts are communicated. There is a very small space to work with, and magazine surveys utilize that space to the best of their abilities.

What is a great way to proof surveys?

A Full Proof Way To Proof

Writing is a tricky process, especially when it comes to writing a survey. It's important to cover all areas of the company's needs from the survey and it should be done in a clear and concise manner. The boss won't take lightly to an un-proofed survey sent out to clients that has spelling and grammatical mistakes. When it comes time for proofing, make sure you are awake. Don't just scan over the text. The best way to catch mistakes is actually reading everything out loud.

It also helps to have another set of eyes look over the product before it's labeled "final."

What is wrong with asking a leading question in your survey?

Leading Could Hurt Learnings

“Objection! Leading the witness!” A very common phrase used in the courtroom, but it can also relate to surveys. Leading is when a question is phrased in such a way that it forces a specific answer from the person. Biased questions can result in skewed survey results, so try to be objective as possible when phrasing your question.

Here are two versions of the same sample survey question:

  • Research has shown babies should have vegetables at least 5 times a day, how often do you feed your baby veggies?
  • How many servings of vegetables do you serve your baby per day?

The first question would lead a responder to answer with a higher number that may or may not be the true answer. Survey questions should be more straightforward and allow the user to answer honestly.

Why shouldn't you use big words in your survey?

No Points For Seven Letter Words

It's more important to be clear and concise, then show off your use of the English language.

If you are dealing with a survey with 50 plus questions (that people were nice enough to take) the last thing you want them to do is struggle on each question and mull over the meaning. This could lead to further confusion when it comes time to answering these questions, and thus skewing the survey results.

Instead, keep the questions short, simple and concise.

What is the difference between open ended and closed ended survey questions?

Open-ended Versus Closed-ended Survey Questions

A survey consists of two types of questions: open-ended and closed-ended. Utilize the different types of questioning for individual portions of your survey to get the best possible response and feedback.

Open-ended questions allow the responder to answer with a more personalized answer. When creating a survey, using this type of questioning allows the surveyor to identify future questions or topics for additional surveys. When answered, open-ended questions offer a more personalized response and the opportunity for the respondent to add comments unasked in the survey itself.
Types of open-ended questions include:
How do you feel about a product/issue?
What is your thoughts about XYZ?
Do you have any suggestions for management/staff?
A concern with open-ended questions is with the increased amount of time the respondent will be expected to take to answer these questions, which often times means the respondent will skip these questions and leave them blank.

Closed-ended questions are those that can be answered with a set answer, such as true/false, yes/no, birth date, gender, or occupation. Closed-ended questions range from circling a response to filling in a single blank. These questions provide you with a definite answer, and they are more likely to be answered since they require very little effort. However, this type of questioning limits the answer choices and provides no more feedback than the basic answer.

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Linda Handiak