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Double-barreled Questions: What is it & how to avoid it?

Kate William

24 June 2022

9 min read

Surveys have to be simple and easy for the respondents to attempt. You need to be wary of asking illogical and ambiguous questions, propounding inaccuracies, and asking double-barreled questions. It will make your organization look in a bad light. And that’s exactly what we’ll help you with in this blog.

  1. What is a double-barreled question?
  2. Double-barreled question examples
  3. How to avoid double-barreled questions?
  4. Other types of errors in survey

What is a double-barreled question?

A double-barreled question is when someone asks a question that broaches more than one issue, but allows only a single answer. It is an informal fallacy and is also known as a compound or double-direct question.

The problem with double-barreled questions is that the respondents are tricked into answering two topics with just one question. The respondents can only give a singular answer, and it ends up skewing the survey results. 

In this article, we will discuss double-barreled questions, how to avoid them, and other common survey mistakes. 

Imagine this scenario 🤔

A customer has purchased a new car and is trying to figure out how all the features in it work. They call the customer support agent to make sense of what the car’s manual elaborates. The agent gives them proper answers and responds to each question with clarity. It clears all the doubts in the mind of the new car owner. 

 After the interaction, the car owner receives a survey and the question goes like this:

“How would you rate the quality of the interaction with the agent and that of your car showroom experience?”

Do you understand what’s wrong here? The interaction with the agent was great, so the customer might give a 10 on 10. But what if the experience at the car showroom was below par? The customer is forced to give a single response to both of them. 

In a question like the above, the customer gets confused. The analysis of the survey will also be skewed because it is difficult to understand. You never know whether the customer has responded to both the issues. Both the questions are measured on different yardsticks. 

Double-barreled questions provide a less-than-stellar survey experience and impact the final results negatively. They are usually used in courtrooms to confuse the people on the stand into admitting something unintentionally. Even though it is used on purpose at times, it could also be because of poor proofreading or for a lack of carefulness. 

A simple way to find a double-barreled question is to search for the conjunction “and.” While that is not the case always as “and” can also be used in a properly formatted question. 

Double-barreled question examples

Let us look at a few examples of double-barreled questions and show you how the questions should have been asked. 

1. Is the software simple and interesting to use? 

The question should be:

Is the software simple?

Is the software interesting to use?

2. How happy are you with the work environment and pay?

The question should be:

How happy are you with the work environment?

How happy are you with the pay?

3. How often and how much money do you spend in a mall?

The question should be:

How often do you go to a mall?

How much money do you spend in a mall?

4. Is this tool useful and faster?

The question should be:

Is the tool useful?

Is the tool faster?

5. Is there a good market for the software and fewer competitors?

The question should be:

Is there a good market for the software?

Are there fewer competitors for the software?

There are some good check-in questions that may not be double-barreled, but are almost similar to one, and have the same issues. For example, “should the company increase amenities at the office and offer three meals for the employees?” It can be interpreted as two questions-” Should the company increase amenities at the office?” and “Should the company offer three meals for the employees?” 

How to avoid double-barreled questions?

Avoiding double-barreled questions is easy. Let’s see the easiest ways to break down double-barreled questions. 

1. Split the survey questions

The easiest fix to a double-barreled question is to divide the question into two. Doing this helps in reducing the confusion for the respondent. It also becomes easy for the survey creator to analyze the results. 

Let’s look at an example:

Did you like our product and the last interaction you had with our customer success agent?

If the respondents say “Yes,” what does the survey analyzer make sense of it. Did they like the product? Or did they like their last interaction? What if they only liked the interaction, but not the product. If they respond with a “No,” you will never be sure which question among the two got that answer. 

You can split the question this way:

“Did you like our product?”

“Did you like your last interaction with the customer success agent?”

2. Read the question carefully:

As simple as this might sound, many of the obvious mistakes that occur in the surveys are because of this. Look for instances where the question asks for more than one thing. 

Read the question and see if it has two or more elements, but allows for only one answer. If that’s the case, then you should break the question into two. Review the questions carefully with the help of a 3rd-party. A fresh pair of eyes will be able to find out more mistakes. 

3. Run an internal trial of the survey:

Before you blast the survey to your customers, send it to your internal team to check for any issues. Review the results from the survey to see if the questions make sense. Use this opportunity to check for double-barreled questions. If the internal team finds that the questions are confusing, you might want to revisit them. 

4. Align the questions to your survey goals:

One more way to eliminate double-barreled questions is to ask questions that align with your survey goals. 

For example:

“Do you like working from home or are you happy working from the office?” 

The above question is a little confusing in the first reading. To make the question sound better, ask yourself if you’d like feedback on your employees’ work experience or about work-from-home tools that would help them get their job done. You need to figure out which question is more aligned with your survey goals. 

5. Ask one question at a time:

Here’s a simple tip to avoid double-barreled questions- ask only one question at a time. Don’t complicate things. Your survey results will be perfect if they are clear for you. 

6. Have multiple quality checks:

Another way to ensure that there are no double-barreled questions in your survey is to have quality checks at multiple points. Ensure that the quality checks are done while the survey is being drafted. Even if you miss mistakes in one or two instances, multiple checks will ensure that you end up avoiding double-barreled questions totally. 

7. Don’t try to trick the respondents: 

Trying to get a particular answer by confusing the respondents is going to damage any goodwill that your brand might have. 

Other types of errors to avoid in your questions

There are several other questions that you can avoid to make the survey experience an enjoyable one. 

1. Leading questions

In this type of question, the surveyor is slyly persuaded to give a particular answer. The problem with leading questions is that it skews the survey results. Apart from questions, the survey creator can add answer options that are leading. 

Answer options that are leading:

a. Too good, b. Good, c. Extremely good, d. Fantastic, e. Excellent

In the above example, the respondent doesn’t get a chance to share a negative remark. If they do not want to share a positive remark, they would be stumped as there is no option for that. 

Here’s an example of a leading question where they have added an unnecessary adjective.

“Did you enjoy our fantastic product?”

Instead of using the word ‘product,’ they have added that the product is fantastic too. 

The best way to avoid leading questions is to use neutral words and focus on the question that you want the respondents to answer. 

2. Loaded questions

Here, assumptions are made about the respondent. Based on it, they are forced to provide answers that they might not agree with or might not be relevant for them. 

Example of a loaded question:

“How was your experience dealing with our competitors in the past one year?”

The assumption made is that the respondent would have used the services of your competitor in the past year. Unless there is the option to skip, it will provide survey results that they don’t want. 

You can eliminate loaded questions by asking preliminary questions. Based on the answers, you can use the skip logic feature to ensure that respondents get to see questions that are relevant to them. 

3. Absolutes

In this type, the respondents are given two extreme variables, putting them in a difficult situation. They force the respondents to answer with a yes or no. Words like always, every, all, and never are included. 

Example:

“Do you always work on Saturdays?” Yes/No. 

The ‘always’ in this question puts the respondent in a spot. To avoid this type of question, stop using absolute words in the surveys. 

4. Bias

Bias could be present in the form of your survey methodology, target population, questions, and answer options. The way the question is worded can also be a reason for bias to creep in. During the planning stage of the survey itself, you have to ensure that there is no reason for any kind of biases to enter. Examine how your questions could be perceived by the respondents. 

5. Ambiguous language

The survey questions should be clear, simple, and easy to understand while reading for the first time. You shouldn’t want the respondent to keep reading the question over and over again to see if they have understood what is being asked. It will impact the accuracy of the survey results. Ambiguous questions will result in dropoffs. 

Ambiguous questions leave room for free interpretation, leading the respondent to guess what the survey creator had in mind. It results in unreliable survey results. 

Example of an ambiguous question:

“If A plays a game of badminton with B, and he’s a champion player, will he win?”

Reading the above question is irritating as you will never be able to figure out who the champion player is, whether it is A or B. 

6. Confusing questions

These types of questions are usually intended to be that way to confuse the readers. They are poorly worded and the format is also intentionally illogical. 

Example:

“Did you like your onboarding experience or was it bad?”

The above survey question mistakes can happen to anyone. By using the strategies that we have discussed above, you can steer clear of committing these blunders. It will not look good for your organization. 

Why you should avoid double-barreled questions?

Ambiguous questions, confusing questions, absolutes, biases, double-barreled questions, etc., are best avoided. It will result in collecting inaccurate data and your organization will end up making disastrous decisions for itself. For getting the best bang for your buck, you need to ask simple and lucid questions. Do not make the respondent second guess their understanding of the question. 

The questions you add to the survey should be consistent, make sense, and have answer options that are simple to follow. Before you send the survey to your customers or target market, ensure that you examine them carefully. By doing so, you will get survey responses that are reliable. It will help your brand identify opportunities that will take your business to the next level. 

Wrapping up

Survey questions have to be written in such a manner that they are easy to understand for everyone. The respondent should be clear about what is being asked and the kind of answer that is expected of them. Double-barreled questions wreck the sanctity of the survey results by confusing the respondent. 

If you are looking for an online survey tool to get feedback from your customers, look no further than SurveySparrow. It has power-packed features that lets you ask the right questions, is easy to analyze, and populates the results in real-time. Get in touch with us to understand how we can help you.

FAQs

1. What are double-barreled questions examples?

Here is an example of a double-barreled question:

“Do you think engineers should work on writing coding scripts and help the marketing team with the product?”

The question asks two different things. It can be confusing for the respondent as they are not sure which one to answer. It should be divided into two different questions:

“Do you think engineers should work on writing coding scripts?”

“Do you think engineers should help the marketing team with the product?”

We have converted them into two questions, and it is also easy for the respondent to answer. 

2. What is a double-barreled question and a leading question?

A double-barreled question is when you ask two questions disguised as a single one. It is misleading and even if the respondent answers, you never know which question are they addressing. 

A leading question is one where the respondent is persuaded to give a particular answer that benefits the survey creator. The respondent will be forced to respond with answers that might not even be relevant to them. 

3. What is a double-barreled question in a survey?

A double-barreled question is one that has more than two separate issues, but the respondent can only give an answer. 

4. What is a double-barreled question Quizlet?

A problem in a survey research question wording where two ideas are discussed in the same question. The resulting response might not provide an ideal answer as the results will be skewed. 

5. How do you answer a double-barreled question?

You can answer a double-barreled question by asking follow-up questions. 

6. What is an example of a leading question?

A leading question wants the respondent to give a particular answer the survey creator desires, in a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ format. 

“Did you enjoy the shoes from competitor A” Here, the assumption is that the respondent has bought shoes from A even though they may not have any data signalling the same. To avoid such a leading question, they can pre-populate data by asking questions before the main survey. 

7. Why do we label double-barreled questions as troublesome?

They are not reliable as the questions are not structured properly. It can be misleading, and it confuses the respondents. 

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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