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Survey/feedback questions

Pointing out clear choicesIt’s unlikely that you have never done a survey or filled in a feedback form about a seminar or such. Unfortunately, it is also unlikely that everyone of those questions you answered was clearly written or easy to understand.

If you are involved in preparing any surveys/feedback forms, it is important to think carefully about how you ask questions. Obviously, the first step is to know what answers you need – do you really want to know how old people are or just the difference between adults and teenagers?

Here are three recent examples I have come across where the question is not going to get the right responses:

“1. Please list as many soft drink flavours you can think of”
“2. For each flavour, please select A, B or C where A is ‘yes, I knew it was a flavour but forgot it’, B is ‘I didn’t realise it was a flavour’ and C is ‘I’ve never heard of it’. {and then list every flavour whether or not the person listed it in question 1}”

So if you had written orange as a flavour in question 1, how can you select A, B or C for orange in question 2? As it was an online survey and answering was necessary, people would guess an answer so the final results mean nothing.

“Were you satisfied with the course handbook?

  • excellent
  • very good
  • good
  • ok
  • poor”

The options do not answer the question – was I satisfied can only be answered with yes/no/partially. To offer those choices, the appropriate question would be ‘How would you describe the course handbook?’

“Which of the following have you ever given your child?

  • brand X vitamins
  • brand Y multi-vitamins
  • brand Z mulitvitamins
  • brand XY kids calcium”

Personally, I hadn’t given any of them to my child but there was no option to say ‘none of the above’ or even ‘other vitamins’.

So once you have written any questions, go back and read them in order to see if they make sense and are complete. One way to check multiple choice answers make sense it to add each one to the question so “were you satisfied with the course handbook? excellent” quickly shows an issue.

I’ll go through some tips on writing useful questions soon! In the meantime, what poor survey questions have you noticed or had trouble answering?