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6 Common Mistakes in Survey Questions That You should Avoid

Ellie Coverdale

Ellie Coverdale

4 min read

One of the best ways to collect meaningful data for your business is to conduct user surveys. This is a tried-and-tested tactic that has been around since long before the modern trend for data analytics. 
Yet just as important as ever are the issues of what survey questions you can ask, and how to ask them. Quite simply, by making mistakes here, your data collection will be compromised. So, what are the most common mistakes in survey questions that will ruin your data?

Asking too many survey questions 

This is an easy place to start because it is one of the most common mistakes to make, and always potentially the most fatal because too many survey questions will just mean people give up. It’s the easiest way to lose valuable data that would have been collected otherwise.

“One of the hardest things to achieve with questionnaires is getting users to do them in the first place. When they do begin, it is essential that you keep them to the end, and the golden rule is not to ask too many questions. Losing them at this stage is just carelessness, and it is a totally unnecessary mistake to make,” warns Kirk Foderingham, a project manager at Boom Essays and State of Writing.

People tend to give-up on your surveys mid-way if there are too many questions.

Not using simple language

If a respondent doesn’t understand your survey questions, the answer they give will probably be useless to you. Be particularly careful with jargon, which may be familiar to you but which may mean nothing to your users. So, steer clear of technical language, niche marketing language or anything else that may not be clear, and just keep it simple.

Using leading or loaded questions

Any questions that you ask should be totally clear from bias, or from providing answers that confirm what you already know as a business. The whole point of this exercise is it to get new data that you can use, so simply getting information that reasserts the information you already have is a complete waste of time. 

Let’s consider the following question,

‘Where do you go for having fried chicken ?’

Your respondent may be in a fix here if if he/she is a vegan. You get the gist right?

Loaded Questions won’t help you gather insightful answers from your respondent as it may not be entirely based on his/her opinion. You can either expect your respondent to leave your survey midway or a biased answer.

“Leading survey questions send the respondent down a path they wouldn’t necessarily have taken, while loaded questions provide answers dripping in bias delivered by the company, so neither responses can be trusted. Avoid these types of questions at all costs,” warns Terri Woods, a psychology blogger at  UK Writings  and Essay Roo.

Loaded questions force you respondents to leave your survey mid-way or give a biased answer.

Using two questions in one

Another common mistake in survey questions is asking something that actually requires two answers, thus severely compromising the data that you gather. Such questions are usually referred to as double-barelled questions. Here, you are actually clubbing two questions into one and the respondent may end up giving a skewed answer.

Here’s an example:

“Is the product useful to you, and is the price satisfactory?”

“Yes.”

So, is it useful? Or is the price satisfactory? Maybe the price wasn’t satisfactory but the product was useful, so the respondent felt compelled to answer ‘yes’. Similarly, if they had answered ‘no’, was it because the product wasn’t useful, or because the price wasn’t satisfactory. You see, it’s misleading, isn’t it?

Another common mistake here is to include two groups in the same questions. Here’s another example:

“Do you think the product is useful for adults and children?”

“Yes.”

So, is the product useful for adults, or children, or both? It’s the same mistake and leaves you with tarnished data all because you didn’t separate your questions properly.

Clubbing two survey questions into one results in the respondent giving a skewed answer.

Using absolutes

‘Always’ is a terrible word to use in any question, as there are very few things that we can answer with any conviction that we always do. That may lead the respondent to answer ‘no’, simply because they cannot say with any certainty that they ‘always’ do it. ‘Never’ has the same result, so just steer clear of these types of words which are just unnecessary.

Not using text boxes

Many businesses, or at least the market research departments who draw up the questionnaires, believe that text boxes that leave room for more or different information are bad, perhaps because you cannot quantify those answers in some sort of graphic. But that leaves you very limited in the styles of questions that you ask. For example, it may completely eliminate ‘why’ questions, which are one of the best to ask. It will be the same if you don’t provide an ‘other’ option. Then a respondent will be forced to tick a box that is perhaps not pertinent to them. And what’s the result? Your data has become compromised once more.

Conclusion

Keep it simple, keep it short, and ask questions that provoke honest appraisals of the users’ habits. This is data that is valuable to your company.

Ellie Coverdale
Ellie Coverdale

Ellie Coverdale is a marketing and technical writer at Boom Essays and Essay Roo. She is involved in online marketing and tech researches and teaches content marketing at online writing services, such as State of writing.

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