Welcome! Today we’ll be discussing how to write questions. We’ll explain important guidelines to follow when placing questions in your questionnaires, and several examples of how to write them right. This piece is the last one in our block on questionnaire-writing basics. After reading this and the other parts in this series, you should be capable of designing and writing your own simple questionnaire.

Tips on how to deal with the questions?

If you need to create a great questionnaire, you should respect the fact that you’re creating it for your respondents, not yourself. To maximize its return rate, adapt it to your target group. The first step is to word your questions wisely.

Ask About Direct Experiences

If your questionnaire asks about an experience that the respondent has never had, you can hardly expect them to answer it.  And even if they do, their answer will be worthless. Another common mistake is hypothetical questions (what if? what then?) These lead to low-quality replies.

Example:

  • Wrong: How should our car repair shop work, in your opinion?
  • Right: Is there anything that you dislike about how our car repair shop works?

Ask Only One Thing Per Question

If you ask about two or more things in a single question, it can confuse your respondents. Here too there’s the risk of getting low-quality and irrelevant answers. If you have a complicated topic for which you need to get answers, divide it into multiple simpler questions. That way, your questionnaire will be simple and easy to understand.

Example:

  • Wrong: What do you see as our weak points, and what do you consider to be our strong points?
  • Right:
      • Q 1: What do you see as our weak points?
      • Q 2: What would you say are our strong points?

Use Understandable Terms and Well Known Concepts

Understandable terms are very important for obtaining a high-quality answer. If a respondent doesn’t understand a certain term, they probably won’t answer truthfully, but rather based on a guess—or even fantasies. So don’t pointlessly use complicated or foreign words that your respondents may not know.

Example:

  • Wrong: Do you think that genotype effects phenotype?
  • Right: Do you thing that genes affect the appearance of organisms?

Ask simple questions

When forming questions you have to pay attention to their simplicity. Too complicated or extensive answers may confuse or discourage the respondents.

Example:

  • Wrong: What feelings have you brought back from the procedure you absolved at our newly opened relaxation and massage center on Relaxation Street, intended to help you relieve pain and exhaustion?
  • Right: How do you feel after your head massage?

Make Sure Each Question Ends With a “?”

Make sure that every question in your questionnaire ends in a question mark. Even though it’s just one little character, it strongly influences the whole questionnaire completion process. Also, to make sure your questionnaire feels trustworthy, avoid grammar errors and errors of fact.

Sorting Your Questions

The right questionnaire structure will raise the quality of your respondents’ answers, and your return rate as well. If you pose your questions poorly, it can ward away your respondents, and they won’t fill out the questionnaire.

Introductory Questions

Your opening questions should, as much as possible, be:

  • Pleasant
  • Interesting
  • Simple

Such questions help to get your respondents’ attention and make them feel that they can easily handle the whole questionnaire.

Sensitive Topics

Questions of a sensitive nature should be positioned with reason, and very carefully. In no case should they be at the start of the questionnaire. The best solution is to progress from less sensitive towards more sensitive questions. Your respondents will then build trust toward you and be more likely to fill out the whole questionnaire.

Example:

  • Q.1: What is your religious faith?
  • Q.2: Do you financially support a political party?
Note: When a questionnaire starts with these two questions, very few respondents will fully complete it. Always place sensitive questions next to other ones contextually related to them.

Concluding Questions

Personal and demographic data such as age, gender, place of residence, etc. belongs at the end of your questionnaire. In certain rare cases, they can fit in next to questions connected with personal data.

Your Questionnaire’s Overall Conception

  • We recommend alternating among question types: For a more pleasant respondent experience, try alternating among different question types. That way, your questionnaire will be more varied and easier to fill out.
  • But place similar questions together: Always place topically related questions close together. That ensures that your respondents know what’s what and can find their way around in the questionnaire. Scattering questions from one domain all around the questionnaire is a blunder.

In a separate piece, we present online questionnaires and point out their advantages and disadvantages.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or remarks (on this series or otherwise), please don’t hesitate to contact us via Facebook, Twitter, G+ or e-mail.

Glossary 

  • Respondent—a survey participant who answers questions
  • Return rate—the extent to which questionnaires are filled out and returned

Create your own questionnaire or survey for free

Setting up your first survey is quick and straight forward. Choose from one of 100 predefined templates or create your own from the scratch. Start getting your first responses in 5 minutes.

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