When you engage in online panel research, the most important part of your research will be the survey itself. Without an effective survey and well thought out questions, you’re unlikely to achieve the required results. To write really great survey questions takes experience, knowledge and practice. Your online panel provider can help you to write effective questions, but here are our top six tips to get you started.
Keep the Questions Straightforward
Online research survey questions need to be short and to the point. When a panel member reads the question, they should instantly understand it. If your respondents misinterpret the question, or they have to read it a few times to understand it, they may not answer it accurately. A good rule of thumb is to stick to a 25-word maximum. That should give you enough space to be clear without over-complicating the question.
One Question at a Time
As an extension of the previous point, you need to make sure you’re only asking one question at a time. Avoid using the word ‘and’ or ‘or’, as these rarely have a place in a direct question. For example, if you want to know how many times a day someone uses a certain product and how much of it they use, that’s two questions.
Keep it Simple
Try to avoid using industry jargon or complicated language. Simple questions are easier to understand, easier to answer and most likely to produce valuable results. Always try to simplify the question. If there’s a simpler way to say it, use it.
Ask, Don’t Tell
The target of all online research surveys is to find something out. You will probably have an ideal result in mind, but you shouldn’t let that become apparent in the questions. Ask open questions, rather than leading or loaded ones. Don’t say “do you think XYZ product is good for…?’ say ‘how well do you think XYZ product performs at…?’.
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This is a point often overlooked in online research planning. Even in an empty room, in front of an anonymous online survey, people are self-conscious about how they answer questions. If your respondent feels guilty or embarrassed about the correct answer, they may be inclined to choose another option. Try to avoid sensitive or controversial issues as best you can. If that’s not possible, a good idea is to place these questions at the end of the survey. That way you will at least receive data for the non-sensitive questions before a respondent may decide not to proceed.
Always Remember Your Research Goals
This last tip works for every stage of the planning of your online research survey. Never forget what you’re trying to achieve with the survey. You should make sure that every question is designed to achieve the survey’s ultimate goal. You should consider dropping any questions that falls into the ‘nice to know’ rather than ‘need to know’ category.