ITS Online

#207 Writing Effective Survey Questions

December 05, 2013

Creating surveys that produce useful insights and actionable results requires writing effective questions.  Here are some tips for writing effective survey questions:


1. Avoid leading words/questions

How would you rate the legendary outfielder Joe DiMaggio?

The question describes him as legendary, which can bias the responses you receive.  Instead, the question could be phrased: “How would you rate the career of baseball outfielder Joe DiMaggio?“ 


2. Provide mutually exclusive choices

What is your age?

    • 10-20
    • 20-30
    • 30+

Ambiguity can result in respondents thinking too many or none of the choices are correct.  Review your survey to see where respondents could get stuck.


3. Ask direct questions

What suggestions do you have to improve Tom’s Tomato Juice?

Questions that are vague can limit the usefulness of the response.  The question above could receive results about the bottle type, label, or price, even though the intention may have been to receive suggestions on how to improve the taste.


4. Use scales carefully and consistently

How would you rate the quality of our service?

    • Fair
    • Good
    • Very Good
    • Excellent

If “fair” is the lowest level on the scale, then a result slightly better than “fair” probably isn’t “good”.  The lowest point on the scale also shouldn’t be listed at the top.

Scales should be balanced and have the same conceptual distance between each point, such as:

    • Strongly Agree
    • Agree
    • Neutral
    • Disagree
    • Strongly Disagree

For more information on writing effective survey questions, please see this Qualtrics Blog Post.





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