Writing solid and unbiased surveys may seem like a daunting and unapproachable task. However, it is not as overwhelming as one may think! Creating well structured, simply written questions will help in collecting valid survey responses. An important goal as a survey author is to construct clear, direct questions and answers using the language that survey participants will understand. While there are no set rules on the wording of these survey questions, there are some basic principles that do work to improve the overall design. The intent of this guide is to provide tips on utilizing those principles for constructing effective surveys that collect accurate and valid data.
Relevancy and accuracy are two ideals that encompass the main outcome of creating reliable surveys. These two principles work together to write effective survey questions. To achieve relevancy, keep the following factors in mind:
- Be familiar with the Questions.
- Know the Objectives.
- Know kinds of information needed.
The kinds of questions a survey author should create are based on two things: the objectives of the survey and the information to be collected. A goal of the author is to then turn those research objectives into a set of “information requirements.” From here, one can create questions that will produce that information. An accurate survey is one where the questions collect the data in a reliable and valid way. If the questions ask respondents things they do not know, then it can result in inaccurate data. To enhance the accuracy of respondents‟ answers, take into consideration the following items:
- Address the wording style, type, and question sequence.
- Make the survey interesting and notice the survey length or how long it takes to answer the entire survey.
- When designing a survey, the author should try to put him/herself “in the position of the typical, or rather the least educated, respondent.”
Some additional things to consider about the relevancy and accuracy of survey questions are the ways in which the questions are written and their overall length. Writing 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”).