The Art of Asking Questions 2: How to Arrange Your SurveyPosted by sabrina
Due to the positive feedback we received on our last guide to survey-writing, we’ve decided to have a go at it again with a few important concepts that were left out of the previous discussion. This time we will discuss how to structure your survey, including which types of questions you should use, and how to order them.
When you should use open-ended questions, and when you shouldn’t.
Open-ended questions ask the respondent to give their answer in their own words. These types of questions should be
used when you don’t know the type of answers your respondents might give. If you give your respondents a fixed set of alternatives to choose from, they will likely answer within this set instead of giving their honest answer. This means that you will miss out on valuable information that is useful for better understanding your respondents.
However, take note that open-ended questions require more effort to answer. Starting off a questionnaire by asking an open-ended question may give the respondent the impression that the survey will take longer to complete than it actually does. Placing an open-ended question at the end of a survey may also encourage shorter answers because the respondent is anxious to finish. Keep in mind that some respondents may feel not comfortable enough with their command of the language to give you the detailed answers you desire.
Giving a set of fixed alternative answers that a respondent can choose from makes questions easier to answer. These kinds of questions are also easier for you, the researcher, to interpret and compare. However, make sure to use fixed alternatives only if you know for certain the range of answers that your respondents might give!
Why order matters.
You want the opening questions of your survey to be simple and easy to answer. This increases the respondent’s involvement with and commitment to the survey right off the bat. It also increases the likelihood that they’ll complete the whole questionnaire! However, do avoid the temptation to ask revealing demographic questions in the beginning of your survey. Asking questions about age or income make respondents feel self-conscious. These questions could destroy your chance of receiving a completed survey. Ideally, these kinds of questions should be asked in the middle or at the end of your survey.
Now that you are equipped with a good set of tools for crafting your own survey, go forth and experiment! You’re probably already familiar with SurveyMonkey, but did you know that Google has its own consumer research tools? Google Consumer Surveys allows you to reach thousands of respondents for as low as $.10 per response. No, we’re not on Google’s payroll. We discovered this tool recently and think it’s a neat idea. If you’ve used Google Consumer Surveys in the past, please, let us know about your experience.