How-tos

How to Design a Survey Form (Easy 7 Step Process)

Here’s the truth, answering surveys are not on the list of anyone’s most favorite thing to do- and without a good survey design your survey form might just end up in someone’s trash bin. The good news is, survey design is not rocket science, and it takes only a handful of simple steps and principles for you to make those dull couple of minutes of your respondents time a little bearable. So, if you’re ready to create a survey form that will actually be filled out by your desired respondents- check out this non-complicated 7-step process:

  • Step 1- Determine the research goals and list of objectives.
  • Step 2- Think about how you can keep your respondents honest and accurate.
  • Step 3- Keep in mind important Survey Principles before creating your questions.
  • Step 4- Structure questions that will produce all of the information you need.
  • Step 5- Create your Survey Form introduction.
  • Step 6- Select Survey Respondents sample size.
  • Step 7- Choose the best method to collect information.

 

Step 1 – Determine the research goals and list of objectives.

Once the survey questions are finished, review questions to ensure the data will answer your research goals and list of objectives. Eliminate questions that do not contribute to the end-goal and have a colleague review to validate your thoughts and ensure questions are not confusing.  

 

Step 2 – Think about how you can keep your respondents honest and accurate.

  • a. If needed, give respondents the option of being anonymous. Some respondents might be hesitant in providing their most honest answer because of embarrassment, fear of judgment or reprimand.
  • b. Do not use too technical terms that might confuse your respondents. Choose the language that mirrors how the respondents truly think and talk regarding the topic.
  • c. Put easier questions first. Allow respondents time to become comfortable in answering the survey, in doing so, they will more likely answer the complex questions later.
  • d. Keep the survey short and simple. Consequently, this will ensure a higher response rate and limit survey fatigue. 


 

Step 3 – Keep in mind key Survey Principles before creating your questions.

  • a.  Make sure each question is focused and designed for specific feedback.
    • Don’t use double-barrel questions: “How do you feel about our products and services?”
    • Instead, separate them into two questions: “How do you feel about our product?” and “How do you feel about our services?” These will provide an equal focus on both subjects.
  • b.  Questions should be grouped or ordered according to the subject.
  • c. Questions should be consistent.
    • For example: If you start with 1=low and 5=high, stick with that format.
  • d. Questions should be precise. Use actual numbers. Avoid generic answer choices like “sometimes” and “rarely” in the survey form.
    • For example: “more than 3 times per week”
  • e. Questions should be balanced. The number of positive and negative options should be equal.
  • f. Questions should be complete. Include all possible answers, and make sure there is no overlap between answer options.
  • g. Questions should be bias-free. Construct the questions as objectively as possible.
    • Avoid leading questions: “Can you see why this product was voted best in customer service?”
    • Instead, ask how they would describe their satisfaction level: “Please rate your satisfaction level in using this product.

 

Step 4 – Structure questions that will answer all of the information you need.

  • Survey questions fall into two categories:
    • a. Structured or fixed response –  respondents choose from a provided list of answer options.
    • b. Non-structured or open-ended – respondents can fill in their own text or numeric answer.

Common Question Types:

  • a. Multiple Choice – These are questions with two or more answer options and is the most basic type of questions since respondents are limited to choices from the multiple answer options.  These are useful for collecting all kinds of demographic data.
  • b. Rating Scales – Rating scales ask respondents to rate how much they agree with a certain statement using a common scale (e.g. 1 to 5, where 1=low and 5=high). These are useful for gauging respondents opinions, attitudes, and behaviors.
  • c. Open-Ended Questions – These are questions with no provided answers options. Respondents answer by writing in their own text. These are great for eliciting responses about attitudes and opinions in a respondent’s own words or having them provide a numeric answer without a suggested range.

If you want to learn more about these question types check out our post on How to Write Great Survey Questions.

 

Step 5 – Create your survey form introduction.

  • a. Advise users of their privacy
  • b. Tell respondents how the data will be used
  • c. Don’t ask personal questions unless necessary
  • d. Give Clear instructions for completing the survey and how long it will take
  • e. If offered, clearly describe incentive to increase the response rate.

 

Step 6 – Select Survey Respondents Sample Size.

  • a. Target population and desired accuracy level will be the basis in choosing the sample size. Target Population is the total number of people you want to understand.
    • For example, you’re doing an employee satisfaction survey, and the company has 1000 employees; then 1000 is the population.
  • b. The Margin of Error – is how much error you can risk. Meaning if you have a margin of error of 5%, and the result of the survey show’s 90% of the employees are happy- 85%-95% is the actual number. Simply, 5% is added and deducted on both ends.
  • c. Confidence Level – reflects that the respondents you chose mattered in the results you got. 95% Confidence interval means that you would get the same result 95% of the time and is the most commonly used.

From the chart table, you can determine your target population and then select the margin of error.

 

Population      

Margin of Error

     Confidence Interval
10% 5% 1%       90% 95% 99%
100 50 80 99        74 80 88
500 81 218 476        176 218 286
1,000 88 278 906        215 278 400
10,000 96 370 4,900        264 370 623
100,000 96 383 8,763        270 383 660
1,000,000+ 97 384 9,513        271 384 664

 

Check out this link for The DataForce Sample Size Calculator

 

Step 7 – Choose the best method to collect information.

Below are the most common types of survey distribution. Each survey method has its pros and cons that are affected by the budget, convenience, quality, and other considerations.

  • a. Online Survey– Services like Google Forms, Survey Monkey, Zoomerang, and many others have made online questionnaires very convenient to design and send. You can also use social media or your website to invite people to take surveys. An online survey is the most simple and cheapest survey to manage.
  • b. Face to Face or Telephone Interview – You have to create a script and train people for this kind of survey. This survey requires more effort and budget; however, you get in-depth answers that are most genuine.
  • c. Mail Survey– Despite being old school and having less control, many still opt to use mail survey because it offers visual quality, looks professional, easy to administer, and not particularly costly.

Take note that you don’t have to choose one. In fact, for best results, it is encouraged to use several modes for survey administration.

Finally, you now have an actionable step-by-step process on how to create your survey form, including guiding principles to structure your questionnaire.  You’re on your way to producing a survey form that will deliver the quality data you need to make that outstanding research. But, perhaps you want to learn more about how to budget for your survey.

Check out this link on Overcoming Survey Budgeting Challenges

For more information on survey design or any aspect of mail survey management, contact us today! We provide outstanding Quantitative Data Collection Services and Paper Scanning Services!

How to Write Great Survey Questions

When starting a survey project, most people look forward to the fun, creative part of writing the questions. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that writing great survey questions is not as easy as it looks. Questionnaire design is more science than art – requiring critical attention be paid to question and answer order, structure and phrasing to ensure you get the reliable, quality feedback you are looking for.

A simple question, such as “How much did you enjoy the program?” could wreak havoc in your results, because it is inherently biased towards a positive response. “How did you feel about the program?” would be a more effective approach. Other pitfalls include asking multi-part questions, having overlapping answer choices, or asking the more difficult questions too early.

But have no fear. Outlined below are the basic principles of questionnaire design, along with some helpful tips, that will have you writing great, effective survey questions in no time:

Before You can Start Writing Great Survey Questions 

    • Know your objectives. Write down the purpose of your survey scanning, what information you need, and how you plan to use the data.
  • Work backwards. Make a list of the specific answers you need first, and then use that to drive your questionnaire.

Basic Guidelines for Writing Great Survey Questions

    • Keep questions focused. Make sure each question is designed for specific feedback. Avoid double-barrel questions like “How do you feel about our products and services?” as some respondents will focus on products and others on services. Instead, separate them into two questions.
    • Put easier questions first. This will increase participation and establish trust. By getting comfortable with the survey research by answering a few less complex questions first, your participants will be more likely to answer the more complex or sensitive questions later.
    • Organize by topic. Similar questions should be grouped together so the questionnaire flows naturally.
    • Keep it short and simple. Questions should be short, focused, and easy to answer. This will ensure a higher response rate and limit survey fatigue.
    • Be consistent. Use uniform rating scales, word choices and definitions throughout your survey. If you start with 1=low and 5=high, stick with that format.
    • Be precise. Avoid generic answer choices like “sometimes” and “rarely”. Use actual numbers instead (e.g, “more than 3 times per week”).
    • Be balanced. Provide an equal number of positive and negative response options.
    • Be complete. Include all possible answers, and make sure there is no overlap between answer options.
  • Eliminate bias. Try to construct the questions as objectively as possible. Avoid leading questions like, “Can you see why this product was voted best in customer satisfaction?” Instead, ask how they would describe their satisfaction level.

Common Question Types

Survey questions fall into two categories: Structured (fixed response) where they choose from a provided list of answer options and Non-structured (open-ended) where they can fill in their own text or numeric answer. Both are extremely useful, depending on the type of feedback you need.

Following are the most commonly used question types:

Multiple Choice

These are questions with two or more answer options. These are useful for collecting structured responses.

Single Response Style (select one answer)

Example 1: Do you smoke?     Y / N

Example 2:  If yes, how many cigarettes do you smoke per day?

use multiple choice to write great survey questions   

A common pitfall here is missing a possible response. Depending on your question, you may need to add a choice called “none”, or if you would like additional details, you could try an “other” option with space for a written response. You also want to make sure there is no overlap, such as using 10-20, 20-30, etc. in the previous example, which would clearly taint the results.  

Multiple Response Style (you may select more than one answer)

Example 1:  What is your race? (check all that apply)

use multiple response style to write great survey questions

Rating Scales

Rating scales ask respondents to rate how much they agree with a certain statement using a common scale (e.g, 1 to 5, where 1=low and 5=high). These are useful for gauging their opinions, attitudes and behaviors. When using rating scales, it is important to make sure you have a neutral option and a balanced, equal number of positive and negative responses. Scales most commonly use 5 or 7 options.

Example 1: The teacher was knowledgeable.

Example 2:  How would you describe your experience navigating the instruction manual.

use rating scale to write great survey questions (sample 2)

Common pitfalls here include being inconsistent with your scales (leading some respondents to answer incorrectly) and asking leading questions, such as, “We pride ourselves on our easy-to-use manuals. How easy was our manual to read?”

Ranking Scales

These ask respondents to rank a list of items in order (e.g, from favorite to least favorite, or most important to least important). It is recommended that you use these with caution. They are known to be reliable at determining first and last place, but not so much the fuzzy middle, as respondents often have to choose a pecking order for items that are essentially of equal value to them.

Example 1: Please rank the following customer service features in order of most to least important when contacting our agency by phone (1=most important, 5=least important)

use ranking scale to write great survey questions

Open-Ended Questions

These are questions with no provided answers options. Respondents answer by writing in their own text. These are great for eliciting responses about attitudes and opinions in a respondent’s own words, or having them provide a numeric answer without a suggested range. The downside is it requires extra time, can cause survey abandonment, and makes data collection and analysis more challenging.

Example: Name two ways we could have improved your customer experience today?

Questionnaire integrity is critical for getting quality data. By following these tips and guidelines, you will be well on your way to success. 

For more information on question and survey design or any aspect of survey mail management, contact us today!

By |2019-03-20T10:51:08+00:00December 6th, 2018|Survey Research Services|0 Comments