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Survey Answers 101: 10 Actionable Tips and Best Practices

Pragadeesh

5 min read

Survey answers? Thought they were easy to write.

Well, yes and no.

Depending on your scenario, the hard part might be to write your answers.

Also, while writing survey answers might sound easy, getting this act together is easier said than done

And by the way, if it were that easy, we wouldn’t have dedicated an entire article on the subject.

Writing effective survey answers is quite similar to writing effective survey questions.

But there are things unique to writing survey answers that you need to know about.

So, in this article, we’ve put together a list of 11 actionable tips and best practices you can use to come up with precise, objective answers for your survey questions

Ready? Let’s dive right in.

1. Begin with the End in Mind

Before you write your answers, you need to know how you’re going to use your answers.

What are you looking to learn from your customers or users? What kind of response are you hoping to gather from your target audience?

You’ll want to gain in-depth information about a complex topic or just a simple response in a word or two.

How will you analyze the responses you collect?

Open-ended responses are hard for you to analyze and quantify. On the other hand, you can quickly analyze close-ended responses and make an informed decision.

Here’s the question you need to ask yourself: What am I going to do with the answers I collect?

2. Use Simple Language and Avoid Jargon

Avoid using industry words that your customers are not familiar with.

When you use jargon, you force your customers to use a dictionary or the internet to understand what you mean. This makes them frustrated and unhappy.

Double-check if you’ve included any big, complicated words, or words with multiple meanings.

Use simple, direct language that your customers will find easy to understand.

If you’ve used any acronyms or abbreviations, simplify them so respondents could understand them better.

Your answer options need to be immediately understood by your customers in order to get the responses you seek.

3. Answer Options Should Be Mutually Exclusive

One common mistake people make is to provide respondents with two similar answer options.

It can be confusing for your respondents to pick an option if there are two or more similar answer options.

You need to make sure that your answer choices are exclusive of each other and don’t overlap.

For instance, if the question below were to be asked to respondents whose age is 35, which option would they choose? The third or fourth option?

Which age group do you fall under?

  • Under 18
  • 18 – 25
  • 25 – 35
  • 35 – 45
  • 45 – 55
  • 55 – 65

Here’s an example that would help the respondents quickly pick a relevant answer:

Which age group do you fall under?

  • Under 18
  • 18 – 24
  • 25 – 34
  • 35 – 44
  • 45 – 54
  • 55 – 65

Your answer options need to be mutually exclusive so your respondents can make clear choices

4. Good Survey Answers are Collectively Exhaustive

As a survey researcher, you need to make sure that you provide your respondents with all the possible answers to a question.

Also, you might want to give them the Other option that lets them give an answer in their own words if none of the answer options apply to them.

Review your list of answer options to see if you’ve added all the potential answers your respondents will expect.

In the example below, Twitter and the Other option could be added as potential answer options, which the respondents might expect.

How would you like to be contacted?

  • Email
  • Mail
  • Facebook

5. Provide an Alternative Answer

There are several scenarios where the respondent can’t or won’t answer a question.

Maybe because it asks for their personal information and comes off too intrusive. Or perhaps the question does not apply to the respondent.

In such cases, you need to offer a way out for these respondents. If you force these respondents to pick an answer, they’ll either abandon your survey or pick an answer option that’s inaccurate.

To combat this issue, you can provide your respondents with answer options such as “prefer not to answer”, “neutral”, “does not apply”, etc.

6. Add Labels to Rating Scales

Rating or opinion scale questions provide your respondents with numerical scales that comprise numbers as answer options.

In addition to the numbers you’ve displayed, you need to add labels explaining the value of those numbers.

For instance, in an NPS survey, you ask: “How likely are you to recommend us to your friends or colleagues?”, and you provide your respondents with a numerical scale that ranges from 0 to 10.

Now you convey the value of the numbers on this scale with labels. You tell them that 0 means they’re least likely to recommend your business and 10 means that they’re highly likely to recommend your business to their friends or colleagues.

7. Change the Order of Your Answer Options

Your respondents might be a little disinterested in completing your survey and might speed through it so they could be done with it quickly and move on to whatever interests them.

Rather than giving you answers that truly reflect their opinion, they blindly pick the same exact option for every one of your questions

As a survey researcher, how do you get these people to give you the right answers?

One way to get them to give you accurate answers is by simply reversing the order of the answer options.

For instance, one question could range from “strongly disagree to strongly agree” and the following question could range from “strongly agree to strongly disagree”.

8. Answer Options Should Be Balanced

You need to keep your response choices balanced. Why?

Because answer options, when not balanced, can introduce bias in your surveys

For instance, if you ask your respondents: “How satisfied are you with our product?” and provide them with these answer options: “Very satisfied”, “Satisfied”, and “Somewhat satisfied”, you assume that your users are satisfied on some level, which normally isn’t the case.

Well, then how do you keep your choices balanced?

You need to have as many positive choices as negative. You successfully eliminate bias when you have an equal number of positive and negative answer choices.

9. Do Not Use Absolutes

Absolutes are words such as “never”, “always”, “worst”, “best”, “all”, “any”, “every”, “ever”, etc.

Response choices with absolutes usually don’t apply to your respondents.

Why? Because respondents can never fully agree or disagree with answer options that use absolutes.

Absolutes make your answer options too rigid and force your respondents to pick an option that’s inaccurate.

The solution is to provide your respondents with a variety of choices that are more specific.

For instance, “once a week — once a month” rather than “never — always”.

10. Avoid Too Many Answer Options

The number of answer options you provide your respondents influences their responses.

The reliability of the answers decreases as the number of questions increases.

Respondents are overwhelmed and find it difficult to pick an option when there are way too many options to choose.

You should rank your answer options by importance and not have more than 5 or 6 options.

Final Thoughts

How you ask your questions is as important as the answers you ask them to pick.

Use our tips above to write good survey answers that will help you collect high-quality information from your target audience.

Here are some related articles from us to help you learn more about creating and conducting surveys:

12 Types of Survey Questions to Gather All Kinds of Information

The Essential Guide to Writing Effective Survey Questions

What Are the Different Types of Surveys?

Got any questions on writing close-ended answers for your survey questions? Any interesting tips or techniques you use to write effective survey answers? Let us know about them in the comment section below.

Looking to create surveys that people love answering? Feel free to check out SurveySparrow.

Pragadeesh

I'm a developer turned marketer, working as a Product Marketer at SurveySparrow — A survey tool that lets anyone create beautiful, conversational surveys people love to answer.

pragadeesh

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