Helping you design your survey questions
Ask the following questions:
- Why am I doing this survey? What do I hope to do or change as a result of this survey? What are my goals?
- Who will receive my survey? What do I need to know about them?
- What will I want to say in any report I develop at the end of the survey process? What will it contain? Does my survey include all information that I will need for my report? How will I analyze my responses?
In addition, as you develop the questions that comprise the survey, think of the following:
- Does this question address one of the survey goals? Is it essential information or simply interesting or nice-to-know?
- What kind of data will your question elicit? Will the question give you enough information to be helpful? How will you analyze the responses? (Remember that open-ended questions require a different and more intensive kind of analysis to make sense of the responses.)
- Does my response scale match the question? (Examples: Always-Frequently-Sometimes-Rarely-Never; Excellent-Good-Fair-Poor; Strongly Agree-Agree Somewhat-Neutral-Disagree-Strongly Disagree)
- Do I have closed questions posing as open-ended questions? (Examples: “Do you think improvements should be made to the facility?” is actually a “yes/no” question. Instead, this question could be “What, if any, improvements should be made to the facility?”)
- Do I have double-barreled questions? (Examples: Do you favor requiring all new freshmen and transfer students to attend orientation on campus? Instead, this could be split into two items, one for freshmen and one for transfers.)
- Have I avoided jargon and abbreviations that might be unfamiliar to those taking the survey?
- Have I asked questions that will require additional work from the respondent?
- Have I asked questions in a way that are easiest to respond to (e.g., it is easier to remember what happened last week compared to last month or last year)?
As you look at your survey as a whole, think about the following:
- How long does it take someone to complete it? (You probably don’t want to go beyond 10-15 minutes.)
- Have I grouped similar items together to make it easier to respond?
- Do I have page breaks so the respondent doesn’t have to keep scrolling down? Are my directions for completing the survey clear?
At the end of the survey development process, IR recommends that you pilot test your survey with at least a few people to check for understanding, ease of response to the items, and time needed to complete the survey.