1. What is the purpose of the survey?
Surveys are conducted for many reasons. By phrasing the questions
and structuring the answers surveys can be used in a multitude
of ways and for a variety of reasons. When compiling a survey
don't loose sight of its purpose.
2. Title the survey
The survey title is a golden opportunity to instantly summarise
a survey's objective and grab the attention of invited respondents.
Respondents are going to invest time in completing the survey
so make them feel that their investment is worthwhile.
3. Do not make the survey any longer than it needs to
Every question that is asked should be asked for a reason.
Focus on 'need to know' questions and minimise 'nice to know'
4. Use plain English, avoid jargon and acronyms, maintain
consistency and don't ask questions that may result in ambiguous
Care must be taken in wording a question. If a question is
not clear then there is every chance that respondents may
interpret the question differently to that intended by the
publisher making any analysis of the data meaningless or at
the very least misleading.
5. Avoid long questions
Try to use short sentences wherever possible. Long questions
tend to cause respondents discomfort and can lead to a higher
level of incidents where respondents abandon a survey.
6. Ask one question at a time
Avoid confusing the respondent with a question like 'Do you
like football and tennis?'
7. Avoid influencing the answer
It is important not to load the question. 'Should irresponsible
shop keepers who sell tobacco to children be prosecuted?'
is unlikely to have any value.
8. Ensure that the answer format used allows the respondent
to answer the question being asked
Allow the respondent to answer how they really feel or they
may be less inclined to complete the survey. As a last resort
consider the benefit of including a "Don't know",
"Can't say" or similar response option.
9. At the same time that you compile the survey consider,
when the survey is complete, how the compiled data is going
If a question is asked that allows a free text open ended
response appreciate that such information is likely to be
difficult to score and/or summarised. Consider grouping answers.
For example "How long have you worked here?" - 'less
than 1 year', 'between 1 and 3 years' and 'more than 3'.
10. Ensure that the questionnaire flows
When asking questions group the questions into clear categories
as this makes the task of completing the survey easier for
11. Target your respondents
In some cases you will want to target a specific group, in
others a cross section. If you can't easily control the respondents
consider including questions/answers that will allow you to
filter out respondents who don't fit your target profile.
12. Allow the respondent to expand or make comments
Allowing the respondent to make additional comments will
increase their satisfaction level and will also give valuable
feedback on the specific questions and/or the survey as a
whole. Remember though for a large sample collection it may
be difficult to analyse free text open ended responses.
13. If the survey you are conducting is to be confidential
ensure that your pledge is upheld
If you have assured the respondents that the survey is confidential
ensure that the individual data is not to be shared with anyone
and the information is not going to be used for any other
purpose. Confidentiality must be maintained at all times and
any identifying information destroyed after the survey is
14. Weigh up the benefits of allowing respondents to be
anonymous or identifiable
If your respondents are to be anonymous then appreciate that
you will be unable to follow up or match "pre" or
"post" surveys. However in some cases allowing people
to remain anonymous will allow people to respond without possible
15. Give careful consideration to the best response format
It is good practice to maintain a consistency in the format
used for responses. Keep in mind that when analysing the data
radio buttons are easier to analyse than check boxes that
offer the respondent multiple responses. Do not use a check
box if a radio response would do.
16. Give the respondent an idea of how much time the survey
Respondent drop out can occur if the survey appears to be
a stream of never ending questions. It is good practice to
give an indication as to how long the survey is likely to
take so the respondents can choose the best time to complete
17. Inform the respondents of the survey end date
Encourage respondents to complete the survey as soon as possible
but advice respondents as to the surveys end date so that
they have the opportunity to schedule the necessary time.
18. Pilot the survey
Before publishing a live survey publish a small pilot survey
to check for questions that are ambiguous or confusing and
to ensure that the survey is aesthetically pleasing.
19. Before publishing the survey proof read the survey
Check and check again that the survey is grammatically correct
and makes sense. If possible get someone else to proof read
the survey before you publish, if no one else is available
then take a break before checking again.
20. Remember to say thank you
To complete surveys respondents need to invest their time
and should be thanked either in a covering letter, at the
end of completing the survey or in a follow up letter. You
may even want to consider incentives such as a prize draw
staff opinion software:
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completing the form below, a PeoplePulse representative
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By Martin Day.