Four Tips to Design Great Survey Questions

Survey methodologies, by definition, consist of asking a series of straightforward standardized questions that the respondents comprehend at a level similar to the questioner. To ensure this, questions need to reduce misunderstandings and avoid ambiguity.  

We came up with quick-4 guidelines that will help you come up with effective questions.  

Simple and Straight-forward-   

This is the foundation. Questions should be simple, specific, and not open to multiple interpretations. A time frame should be included if it improves understanding of the context. Another tip to improve comprehension is avoiding technical terms and industry jargon. If unavoidable, the question should elaborate on the acronyms and explain the jargon.     

Questions Should Not Contain Assumptions-  

At times, a question-designer might include an untested assumption in the question.   

For example- How can we improve the Budget?  

Do you see what is wrong with this question? The problem is that the questioner assumes that the respondent considers the Budget to be good, which in real life can go the other way, the respondent might not agree with the basic premise. This might lead to an awkward situation; the respondent might be forced to give an inaccurate answer.   

Avoid Compressing Multiple Questions into a Single Question-   

This happens far too often to untrained researchers. Double-barreled questions ask two things at once and dilute the answer’s effectiveness. To avoid ambiguity, ensure there is only one question being asked at a time.   

Example- Do you enjoy lifting weights and running?   

Both are forms of exercise but are distinct from each other in execution. If a respondent chooses to say yes to the former and no to the latter- the answer might just be incorrect.  

Avoid Double-Negative Questions-  

Double negatives add a layer of unnecessary complexity to a question and increase the risk of misinterpretation. The best option is to avoid a question that might look like this-  

Do you oppose not allowing Hijab wearing students’ entry to college?  

This can lead to unintended comedy, where the respondents end up giving the opposite answer to what the question is actually asking.  

These are common errors, that can be easily avoided once they are acknowledged. While reviewing questions multiple times can be time-consuming, it is certainly better than asking an openly wrong or inefficient question. 

Great questions unlock insights that can transform individuals and organizations. If you are interested in pursuing this concept and need help with designing questions and the necessary distribution tech, you can reach us at