5 Tips for Improving Your Survey Questions

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38 STRATEGIES THAT WORK Improve the Quality of Your Survey Data 5 tips for improving your survey questions from experts Sheila B. Robinson and Kimberly Firth Leonard Surveys are a cornerstone of social and behavioral research, and with the use of web-based tools, surveys have become an easy and inexpensive means of gathering data. But how researchers ask a question can dramatically infl uence the answers they receive. Now more than ever, researchers must deploy surveys with both high-quality questions and a purposeful design process in order to combat nonresponse, ensure that respondents provide high-quality data, and maximize survey responses. Follow these fi ve tips to improve your survey questions: 1. Quality Above All: There is tremendous competition for respondents who are already over-surveyed and burdened by the constant requests for feedback. Taking the time to understand your audience and carefully craft questions that they will fi nd relevant and engaging will result in high-quality, usable data. To avoid low response rates and survey fatigue, your questions should be brief and easy to understand. 2. Defi ne Your Purpose: Before creating your survey, it is important to articulate the key research question(s) that the data collected from the survey will help answer. Having a strong understanding of the "big picture" research question(s) is key to ensuring your survey questions are targeted and consistent. 3. Increase Comprehensibility: The more you can learn about your respondents, the better you can craft questions that they will be able to comprehend and provide accurate answers to. Knowing their age, gender, occupation, race/ ethnicity, education level, literacy level, income, access to technology, interest in the topic, or even willingness to respond to a survey before it is deployed can mean the difference between low-quality data and a highly successful survey research effort. 4. Respect Your Audience: In today's global world, it is essential that researchers create surveys that are respectful of, refl ective of, and relevant to the intended respondents. When creating your survey, be mindful of details such as valid language translations, refl ecting slang, colloquialisms, and regional dialect, and taboo topics. 5. Straightforward Contact: It is best to keep invitations and messages for your survey as short and direct as possible. Be sure to include the most important information needed for potential respondents to make an informed decision about participation. Use a conversational and personal tone, be transparent about who is specifi cally conducting the survey/analysis, and always provide researcher contact information should the respondent require assistance. Learn more about Designing Quality Survey Questions by Sheila B. Robinson and Kimberly Firth Leonard on page 40.

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