Types of Errors in Surveying Respondents You Should Know About

It is easy to avoid errors in surveying respondents, but it requires some experience in data and analytics. Luckily SurveyPlanet is here to help by becoming a more seasoned survey writer by improving the quality of your research.

Knowing the source of measurement error to seek, makes it easy to maintain proper methodology. This helps meet the goal of reducing survey errors and ensuring you gather accurate, reliable, and valid outcomes.

This article will present the most common types of errors in surveying respondents and give you concise guidelines to prevent them.Our tips will ensure that questionnaires are well-written and designed to flawlessly collect reliable data from your respondents.

Understanding and dealing with errors in survey research

The prime purpose of a survey is to get accurate results that allow you to quickly understand a large population and evaluate opinions regarding a particular topic.

Among other things, it’s a savvy method to analyze a target audience before launching a new product, better understand your employees, and look for ways to improve workplace satisfaction. Good surveys can help you gain insight, collect feedback, and can be implemented to meet dozens of everyday life scenarios.

This kind of research allows you to gain accurate insights that can help you start—or maintain—a business by assessing participants’ opinions and turning that into quantitative data. Such a process will ensure accurate inferences while minimizing the errors.

Every measurement can contain errors, but rigorous techniques allow these to be kept at an acceptable level that does not affect the accuracy of results. To understand errors that do crop up, survey technicians have to be able to determine the potential magnitude of such errors.

An essential part of the process is controlling or eliminating errors and mistakes while collecting and evaluating the data. That means the first step toward producing valuable statistics about a target population is looking for errors and realizing their effect on outcomes. More than one ball has to be kept in the air simultaneously.

How challenging can it really be to notice them? You’d be surprised, but with the right approach, you can inspect the trustworthiness of your survey data by catching errors as they occur.

The main sources of errors in surveying respondents

A key to successful research is knowing which errors to expect and what to do with survey responses that might be tainted. If you want to interpret the collected data correctly, you must eliminate all results that can ruin your research.

Knowing the potential sources of most common errors in surveying respondents will help you recognize them before pursuing a deeper dive into data analysis. These come in two main categories: sampling and non-sampling errors.

What is sampling error in survey research—and how to reduce it?

Targeting the wrong respondents will obviously produce incorrect survey outcomes. Quality sampling simply means selecting the right group of people who genuinely represent the appropriate audience of interest.

If the research involves all of the people about whom you want to learn something, preventing sampling errors shouldn’t be a major headache—you can easily create a survey that covers the entire target audience.

In other cases, some amount of sampling error is inevitable. You should always follow three essential principles while choosing a sample from which to collect data: diversity, consistency, and transparency.

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Types of non-sampling errors in survey research

Non-sampling errors can be present in all aspects of the research process. These indicate that the survey design needs to be improved. Such errors include poor survey design, lousy survey questions, response bias, missing data, etc.

Although you may already know what specific information you want to get from respondents, writing survey questions can be challenging. Mistakes are easily made when creating a study.

While a quality survey encourages respondents to answer truthfully, inaccurate questions will leave them confused. The most common errors are asking leading or double-barreled questions. Unfortunately, these are not the only ways that can cause misunderstandings or letting respondents to answer untruthfully.

How to prevent non-sampling errors in survey research?

First, you need to know your target audience.

Don’t rush into writing questions before dedicating time to understanding who you are communicating with and how they think. Don’t forget that one goal is to make the process enjoyable for participants, which makes them want to share their honest opinions on the chosen topic.
Consider the potential impact of response bias, which will create a tendency for your respondents to give false answers. These biases are usually a consequence of surveys that involve respondents self-reporting.

  • “Yea-saying” bias (also known as the “friendliness effect”) is a phenomenon in which respondents tend to agree with whatever is said to them. “Nay saying” bias is the exact opposite, always disagreeing regardless of the particulars of the questions.
  • Extreme responding is the tendency of a respondent to falsely answer in the extreme – even if that’s not their honest opinion.
  • Social desirability bias occurs when participants want to hide their socially undesirable traits (such as drinking alcohol frequently) by answering dishonestly when they are afraid of being judged.
  • Order effects bias is a term describing how respondents may answer untruthfully to questions due to the order in which questions appear in a survey. Survey questions should follow a logical flow.

In order to avoid any type of response bias, make sure your question-and-answer options are not misleading. Ask neutrally worded questions and keep them short and easy to understand.

Using an anonymous questionnaire can help prevent respondents from misrepresenting themselves, so you should consider this option for topics that don’t require that participants’ identities be revealed in order to return more reliable research results.

Also, stick to the previously defined purpose of your research. Your specific topic of research was chosen for a reason. Don’t fall into the trap of leaning in the wrong direction when the creative flow kicks in. This is a pretty common mistake.

Make sure your research has only one purpose. If you require more varied conclusions, create more than one survey (and hey, making them is fun).
When you create a survey, the goal is to collect feedback from respondents that truly represents your target audience and their opinion on specific topics.

The reliability of the data that is captured depends on several factors:

  • response bias
  • research skills of the author
  • potential question or sampling errors
  • certain environmental factors

Research outcomes are never exact. They will always contain a certain measure of variance regardless of how carefully questionnaire procedures were followed.
Keeping in mind errors and their sources while creating a questionnaire allows you to create a quality data collection design and reduce (or completely avoid) the consequences of errors and mistakes in surveying respondents.

Now that you know how to recognize the most common errors in surveying respondents, browse our survey examples. You can find many already written questions, apply gained knowledge, and quickly become a skilled survey technician. Sign up for an account with SurveyPlanet and start your research journey today!