How to Write Surveys
A survey should appeal to the person taking it. Along with appealing to the participant, it should have questions that contain useful data you can use and interpret at a later time. Keep in mind that surveys are voluntary. Surveys should not take up a lot of the participant’s time. When writing up a survey, there are some things to keep in mind.
First, ask yourself why you want to write a survey. Determining what type of data you want to collect from your survey will depend on the type of survey you want to write up. For example, when writing a survey about gender equality, it would be important to consider implementing a question asking about their gender.
- Questions must be direct and understandable.
- Collect demographics
- Add multiple choice (short answer to a minimum and reserve for personal opinions)
- No leading questions
Different types of surveys will need different types of questions. Examples of types of questions you can ask are multiple choice, rating scale, Likert scale, or open-ended. Of course, the questions you may ask have to be answered appropriately; some questions can be multiple choice and the answer choices should cover all situations, but do not overlap with each other. The person taking the survey should know that there is a clear answer for them.
After deciding the types of questions you want to ask, it is important how you ask them. Surveys should not have any indication of a leading question. A survey should not sway the participant to pick one answer over another. A question like “are your parents married?” is an example of a leading question because it makes the assumption that the person’s parents are married, when in actuality, their parent’s relationship is not even close to marriage. A non-leading question would be “what is the martial status of your parents?” which will follow up with different options of the relationship such as married, separated, unknown, or widowed, just to name a few. This also brings up a point where participants should have the option where there is a question they cannot or would not answer, then they do not have to. In the example of martial status of the participant’s parents, the option of “unknown” is an option for people who do not know the relationship between their parents due to a multitude of reasons. Surveys should be inclusive to all types of people and their differing situations; this way, it can give the most useful and most accurate data.
Another thing to keep in mind when writing survey questions is to make sure the question is clear, direct, and simple. Using certain words can be interpreted differently when the participant is reading your question. Even simple words such as many or much can have different interpretations to people. It is also good to avoid having too many questions where the participant would start checking off random answers and then the data you are collecting is no longer valid. Making the questions flow one question after another will allow the participant to be more engaged. Writing the survey as if you are having a conversation with them will allow for better engagement and more accurate data since they are being honest. They will see it less as a burden and something they will happily do.
It is also a good idea to have a section in your survey that participants have to fill out that involve their demographics. After analyzing and reviewing the data, it could be helpful to see correlations between demographics and certain answers they have chosen and you can point this out when presenting your data.
Once you have taken these tips and have written your questions, it would be a good idea to ask someone to do your survey before actually collecting data. This way, they can spot any mistakes and give you feedback on how to further improve. Data collecting can be more accurate when the right questions are being asked.