Wording Surveys Well Makes Them More Effective

Wording Surveys Well Makes Them More Effective

by Arden Harper    Apr 15, 2020 3:04 pm  
4 minute read

Have you ever sent a message to someone asking “would you prefer [x] or [y]?” and they answer “yes”? Isn’t that frustrating? So why would you write a survey in the same manner? Business data collection surveys are often written this way, unfortunately. There are many  ways that survey wording can be improved, so we’ll break it down into different categories: asking direct questions, making questions objective, providing appropriate response options, asking for one piece of information per question, and length. 

Asking Direct Questions

Questions on your survey might be too vague. Questions are a means to an end; the answer is what you seek and the question is how you gather the necessary data related to the answer. 

On the US Census, people routinely forgot to add children that lived with them if they weren’t their biological children. Tweaking this question gets at the specific piece of information the survey wants: whether or not children live at the house the questionnaire was sent to. 

A good rule of thumb is to make sure your question is specific enough that there’s no confusion about what is being asked, but not so wordy that the meaning is lost. Another rule of thumb is deciding what you want answered, rather than what you’re asking. The inquiry itself is a means to an end (the data gathered from the survey).

Let’s think about a feedback survey sent after a product has been delivered. In most surveys asking for feedback, the information sought after is a review of the product. The survey will likely ask 1) if the product was delivered correctly 2) if the product instructions were useful 3) if the product worked 4) if it was effective. A common problem is asking too many questions and/or asking questions in a confusing manner. In following articles in the series, we’ll talk about wording questions objectively and question format, so keep that in mind. 

Here’s some examples of asking these four inquiries directly and indirectly.

Overall, asking directly is a great way to get at the exact insights desired, however, as in the last example above, directly asking is also about wording in the best way in order to get the results necessary. While there are often inherent biases with all surveys, the way to get the best possible results is to ask simple and direct questions.

Boxplot has written effective surveys for many clients in the past, and provided in-depth analysis of the results. 

Email us today: info@boxplotanalytics.com


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