Good survey questions are key to successful research. Whether you need quality market or product research, or simply want to find out more about the opinions, needs, and interests of customers or clients, the way surveys are constructed and questions asked are of great importance.
Surveys are an integral part of business research and their questions are their foundation. In order to make the best survey questions possible, ones that are going to serve their purpose, you first need to get familiar with the basics.
There are several types of surveys, each of them requiring specific types of questions to give accurate results. Well-constructed questions—and the results they yield—will give you valuable information about your business, which will allow you to grow and improve it.
Perhaps you’re wondering: What are good survey questions?
If so, read on. This article will explain what makes a good survey question and introduce the do’s and don’ts of writing surveys. Last but not least, we give examples of well-written survey questions that serve their purpose and can be used in your next round of research.
What is a good survey question and how should you write one?
For a survey question to be superior, it must provide you with the right information about your customer, product, or service. That is, give you the information needed—at a certain phase in your business’s growth arc—o help you improve products, customer relations, and overall business operations.
How can I accomplish this? How do I make questions that are good enough—and the right amount of them—so that they provide the needed information while ensuring that the survey isn’t too long, so as to not bore respondents?
Well, we have some good news for you: that is exactly what we are going to cover in this article.
But before diving into the methods and examples, it is important to first learn the underlying theory.
What are the most common types of survey questions?
The main two types of survey questions are closed-ended and open-ended
Close-ended questions have predefined answers. They offer respondents a set of answers to choose from.
Open-ended questions usually have a little box where respondents can shape an answer in their own words.
If you’re wondering which type of question is best, the answer is rather simple: both types have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Closed-ended questions are easier to analyze, but give limited data. Since you are giving the answers, there is the risk of not finding out what customers really think.
With open-ended questions, respondents have the opportunity to voice their opinion and word answers the way they want. Even though the data will be harder to analyze, it can give valuable insight into your respondents’ true opinions and feelings.
Both of these question types are important to have in surveys to get the best results. Lucky for you, SurveyPlanet offers the amazing feature of exporting your survey results, which makes it easier to analyze the data gathered.
1 Demographic questions: everything you need to know about your audience
This is the type of question most surveys begin with, and there is a good reason behind this. You get to collect some very important data about your respondents, such as gender, age, race, education level, income, etc.
Why is this data important?
Because you get valuable insights into your target audience. For example, knowledge about their background, interests, and habits can greatly impact how customers perceive your business and how you should approach them.
Demographic questions are definitely useful and should be used in your surveys.
2 Dichotomous yes or no questions - simple but of great importance
These are probably the most common survey questions you’ve encountered. The logic behind them is very simple: the respondent is presented with a question or statement about a product or service and has two-answer responses to choose from: yes or no, true or false, and agree or disagree.
3 Multiple-choice questions: give your respondent more options
Even though dichotomous questions are technically multiple-choice questions, the term multiple-choice question is generally understood to mean questions that offer more than two answer options.
These questions are very helpful for making surveys more specific and in-depth.
Additionally, you can choose if respondents can select only one answer (single-select question) or be able to choose more than one answer ( multi-select question).
4 Rating scale questions or ordinal scale questions
Now we’ve come to scale-type questions. They are also very popular in the survey-making community.
With these questions, you ask respondents to rate a certain product or service on a particular scale or disclose the likelihood they would recommend a product. The scale can have different ranges: from 1 to 5, from 1 to 10, 0 to 100, etc.
5 Likert scale questions/satisfaction scale questions
Another frequently used type of survey question. You may not have known what it’s called, but you’ve definitely seen it many times.
Likert scale questions present respondents with a scale that measures their satisfaction on a certain topic. That can be a product, a service, or a potential innovation. The answers to choose from range from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” (or “very satisfied” to “very dissatisfied”).
Answers will show the degree of satisfaction with a particular subject. That’s why they are the best questions for customer satisfaction surveys, employee satisfaction surveys, or any other measuring the degree of satisfaction or agreement.
6 Open-ended questions give respondents space to voice their opinion
These types of questions allow respondents to share their opinions freely rather than choose an answer prepared for them. This provides the opportunity to ascertain their feelings and opinions—phrased in their own words.
If you want to gather qualitative instead of just quantitative data, then be sure to ask open-ended questions in your surveys.
Now that we’ve covered the most common types of survey questions, it’s time to get familiar with some examples of good survey questions.
How to write a good survey question
In order to come up with the best survey questions, first determine which type of survey you want to use. Here are some survey examples to get started with.
After deciding what your survey is going to concentrate on—such as customer opinion regarding a product or service, employee satisfaction, event planning, or feedback from students—you then need to decide how questions are going to be formulated.
Then pay attention to every single question. Decide on the type of feedback you want and use questions that will address major problems—while also exploring less obvious ones, since they can have a negative impact on your business as well.
To succeed in creating the best questions, be aware of the frequent problems when formulating survey questions. We’re now going to cover some common problems that can arise.
Developing questions: the right words are crucial
The wording of questions is important to the success of surveys. If respondents misunderstand questions they might choose an answer that does not actually match their opinion. This will give false feedback, which can’t be used—or worse, will be used to your disadvantage.
Question order and how it can impact results
The usual practice is to ask demographic questions first, especially when they are needed to determine if the surveye is eligible to participate.
It is also important to pay attention to the order of other questions. Namely, some research suggests that the way questions are arranged can impact how people answer them.
For example, it has been shown that questions asked early in a survey can impact how later ones are answered. This is the order effect. There can be a great difference in the answers because of their order (contrast effect) or they may be too similar (assimilation effect).
How to avoid mistakes when choosing survey questions
The basic advice is to keep your questions short and easy to understand, while not being misleading. Use simple and straightforward language. Make questions neutral, so they don’t lead your respondents to choose a certain answer.
Additionally, when using a positive statement in a survey, give a countervailing negative statement later to create balance.
Ask mostly closed-ended questions, with just a few open-ended ones. Let questions be optional to answer too, since respondents might not have an answer to every question. You don’t want to lose all the other valuable feedback just because a couple of questions are left blank.
Don’t ask for two things at a time, and group your questions by topic in a logical order. Keep surveys interesting and engaging, and don’t make them too long. Instead of asking too many questions, make them specific.
There are a couple of exciting tools we’ve developed for these purposes, one being our branching questions feature. With it, you can exclude unnecessary questions by choosing which will be shown to certain respondents.
It is also important that surveys are anonymous. Otherwise, there is a high chance of common survey errors like “yea-saying” bias, extreme responding, or social desirability bias.
Good survey questions examples - how does a good survey example look like?
We will now cover a few sample survey questions.
Let’s say you need to create a market research survey to see which of your products are most useful to consumers, which ones customers are most satisfied with, improvements they would like to see in a certain product, and new features that are desired.
Here are some good survey questions that meet those requirements:
1 Demographic survey questions
How old are you? / What’s your age? / Please select your age group.
What is your date of birth?
What is your gender? / What gender do you identify as? / Which gender do you identify most with?
What is your ethnicity? / Please specify your ethnicity.
What is your current relationship status? / What is your marital status?
What is your level of education? / What is the highest level of education you have completed?
What is your current employment status?
What is your annual household income? / Which income group does your household fall under?
2 Questions about a product or a service
How did you hear about our company/products/services?
Have you ever used our products/services?
How satisfied are you with our products/services?
How satisfied were you with your customer service experience?
How would you rate your experience with our product?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how well does our service meet your needs?
Which of the following words would you use to describe our service?
How likely are you to use our products/service in the future?
How likely would you recommend this product to someone?
How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or a colleague?
3 Open-ended questions
What do you like the most about …
Is there anything you dislike about …
Is there anything you think we can improve about our product/services?
Do you have any suggestions as to how we can improve …
Do you have any suggestions for us?
What other products would you like to see us offer?
If you could change something about our products/service, what would it be?
Which products would you like to see in the future? / What would you like to see improved in our services?
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
All of these questions can be used for various purposes. It’s very simple to fit them to your needs.
For example, for a post-event question, replace products for different services you offer. For a customer satisfaction question, ask about certain aspects of your relationship with customers. For an employee satisfaction survey, focus on the relationship between employees, their assignments, the overall work atmosphere, etc.
Creating a good survey question is not simple. You have to think about the feedback you wish to receive, and have to be careful not to discourage and mislead respondents.
And that is one of the most important aspects of creating a good survey—to not bore your respondents. Because if you do, you’ll end up with very little information to analyze.
That’s why we encourage you to try out our pro features, which will give you the chance to use custom themes, upload images, and other strategies to engage with respondents and make their survey-taking experience more entertaining.
With some practice, you’re bound to get the hang of articulating good survey questions. But if you need assistance of any kind, feel free to ask SurveyPlanet for help!
Photo by Christin Hume