How to craft survey questions

8 Keys to Crafting Effective Survey Questions That Get Results

Surveys are indispensable in various fields, facilitating the process of collecting data, insights, and feedback from customers.

By accurately measuring the behaviors and experiences of the general community, businesses can drive more effective decision-making processes.

However, crafting an effective survey might not be as easy as it seems. It requires careful consideration of various factors, including defining clear objectives, using simple questions, and more.

8 Ways to Crafting Effective Survey Questions for Better Feedback

Designing good survey questions is a multistage process that requires your attention at every phase of the journey.

No matter what industry or business you are in, here we provide eight key principles to help you craft survey questions that actually gain better feedback and enhance the effectiveness of your data.

Let’s dive into each key one by one!

Define Clear Objectives

This is the beginning of the process and can establish the foundation for the phases later on.

Clear objectives can provide your business with a comprehensive roadmap to create the questions that directly contribute to the achievement of your research goals.

When you define clear objectives, it means that you set the scope for the survey and clarify what piece of information you want to collect.

This makes sure everything is on the right track, and you don’t waste your business’s time and budget on something irrelevant.

An illustration of SMART Principles

However, setting the goals or objectives of your survey research also requires careful consideration and planning. The survey’s objectives should follow the SMART principles:

S = Specific

Rather than saying a vague or ambiguous statement such as “We want to improve customer satisfaction”, you should try to make more specific goals with the exact number of achievements you aim to accomplish.

For example, you could say, “Increase customer satisfaction ratings from 75% to 85% within the next six months”.

M = Measurable

You should define how you’ll measure your success.

By setting the criteria or metrics to assess the success of each objective, you can track progress and evaluate the effectiveness of the survey.

A = Achievable

Setting objectives too high can harm the momentum that drives the progress of your survey.

It’s better to set objectives that are realistic and attainable within the constraints of time and resources of your business.

R = Relevant

Ensure that each objective is relevant to the broader goals and purpose of the survey.

In other words, your defined objectives should directly contribute to addressing the main survey topics and avoid objectives that are tangential or unrelated to the primary focus of the survey.

T = Time-bound

Assigning a deadline or timeframe for the completion of each goal within the survey implementation is crucial.

This not only keeps you on track but also ensures progress is made within the set timeframe.

Keep Questions Simple and Concise

When it comes to crafting questions, simplicity and conciseness are paramount to collecting accurate responses from survey participants.

Why this is so important? Let us explain!

We all know that the main job of the survey is to increase the response rate and collect as much as valuable insights from people as possible.

So, it’s crucial to ensure that customers or targeted people stay focused until the end of the survey.

In case you provide questions that are complex and confusing, your respondents are likely to misunderstand and provide inaccurate responses, which, ultimately, can decrease the reliability of the survey data.

Here are some strategies for writing straightforward, easy-to-understand questions:

  • Keep it short: Try to make your questions as short as possible and straight to the point because long engagement questions can be confusing.
  • Use natural language: Avoid using technical words or jargon in survey design that people might not know. In case the topic is complex, you should provide brief definitions.
  • Use simple sentences: Keep your sentences simple and easy to read. Don’t use complicated sentence structures or fancy words.
  • One question at a time: Stick to one clear question at a time to avoid confusion and ensure accuracy in the responses.

On the flip side, by keeping questions simple, concise, and organized in a logical order, you can improve response rates and gather more actionable feedback.

Use Closed-Ended Questions Wisely

The essence of survey research is quantitative, so closed-ended questions play an important role in data collection.

By providing people with predefined answer choices, survey conductors can find it easier to quantify and analyze responses. People can only choose one answer from typically four to five available choices, so this reduces the variability in data collection.

Thus, businesses can save time and money analyzing data compared to complicated interpretations when collecting open-ended questions.

So, how do you craft effective closed-ended questions?

An example image of a closed-ended question with just a yes and no answers

Firstly, businesses should make sure all answer options are clear and cover all possible responses. Also, avoid using overlapping or ambiguous choices that can lead to people providing inaccurate answers.

Keep in mind the number of options, how each option is described, and the order of options can totally affect how individuals respond. So it’s better to carefully consider these factors when crafting multiple-choice questions.

Secondly, you should use the Balanced Scales method for rating questions.

This means making sure that the options provided on the scale are balanced and cover a wide range of possibilities. You should not bias the survey participation to select the positive option over the negative one.

Lastly, regarding yes/no questions, keep it simple and clear.

Avoid asking too much in one question, and make sure the question provides survey clarity about what the person means. This way, you’ll get the most accurate responses.

Open-Ended Questions for Qualitative Insights

While closed-ended questions perform well in surveys, why do we need open-ended questions?

Well, both types of survey questions assist businesses or individuals to gain the desired result of the survey, as open-ended questions allow for richer, more nuanced responses.

Here are some best practices for encouraging detailed responses without leading the respondent:

  • Keep it neutral: Use language that’s open-ended and unbiased, allowing respondents to share their true thoughts without feeling pressured.
  • Give them space: Avoid word limit and make sure respondents have plenty of room to express themselves fully.
  • Ask for more: Use follow-up questions to dig deeper into their responses. Some survey questions examples: “Can you tell me more?” or “Could you give me an example?”
  • Stay open-minded: Avoid making assumptions or steering respondents toward a particular answer. Let them guide their answer in their own direction.

The value of open-ended questions lies in their ability to capture all insights and opinions of respondents in their own words. Moreover, common responses from open-ended questions can even used to develop answer choices in closed-ended questions.

So, we can say that open-ended questions generate qualitative data for the survey topics.

However, crafting effective open-ended questions might require some finesse to ensure targeted people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without feeling forced to do that.

Avoid Leading and Biased Questions

When designing surveys, it’s crucial to avoid leading and biased questions to maintain the validity of the data you collect.

In some cases, you might not even notice, but some words can point the respondent in the particular direction of an answer.

For example: “Delivering 5-star satisfaction is our goal. How would you rate your satisfaction?”

This question can have a negative impact as respondents may feel guilty if they give your business a low rate.

That said, the impact of leading and biased questions can not be overlooked as they can introduce a systematic error or bias into the data, ultimately leading to inaccurate results.

In order to avoid biased responses, you should apply techniques for neutral wording.

This means asking questions in a fair way that doesn’t push people toward a certain answer. One way to do this is by using words that don’t favor one side over another.

For instance, instead of asking, “Do you agree our product is the best?” you could ask, “What do you think about our product compared to others?”

This questionnaire template lets people feel free to express their thoughts without pressure to agree.

Consider the Question Order

There are research indicates that the order in which questions are provided to people can influence how they respond. It is shown that the question in the earlier of the survey can unintentionally provide the context for later ones.

This, as a result, highlights the importance of strategically arranging questions so that survey creators can maintain respondent interest and minimize the risk of bias.

An example image of an incorrect question order in survey creation

A well-structured sequence of questions should start with easy-to-answer and straightforward questions to keep respondents feeling comfortable and willing to move forward.

Following that, efforts should be taken to gradually introduce more complex questions without overburdening them with one after another.

This can keep respondents engaged and interested in providing thoughtful responses throughout the survey.

Additionally, keep in mind to arrange questions in a logical order. When questions are grouped by similar topics, it creates a smooth flow that makes it easier for respondents to understand and answer naturally.

Pre-test Your Survey

Rushing into everything can result in negative outcomes, and distributing a survey is no exception.

That’s why it’s recommended to pre-test your survey to prevent any unexpected issues and ensure accurate data collection for calculated surveys.

Here are six pre-test survey types for you to consider:

  • Respondent debriefing: Talk with survey participants to find out if any questions were confusing or difficult.
  • Cognitive interviewing: Have conversations with respondents, typically face to face, to understand how they interpreted and answered the questions.
  • Expert evaluation: Get feedback from survey experts on how to improve the questions and survey design.
  • Focus groups: Bring together a small group of people to discuss the survey and provide feedback.
  • Experiments: Test different versions of your survey with a small group to see how changes may affect results.
  • Pilot surveys: Test the survey with a small group before launching it to everyone to catch any problems early.

Specifically, the survey pre-test allows you to run your survey with a small test group before actually sending it out to your participants. If there are any questions that do not make sense or potentially biased questions occur, you can immediately tackle them so that they don’t affect your official data.

Feedback from the test group can reveal areas where questions are unclear or confusing, where the order of questions may need adjustment, or where the overall design of the survey could be improved.

Continuously Improve Based on Feedback

After officially publishing the surveys, the journey does not end. It’s essential for your business to continue to monitor the responses and gather feedback from people.

Based on the gathered real-world data and insights, ongoing refinement of the survey questions can be implemented. Thus, you can ensure that your surveys evolve over time and align with respondents’ needs, preferences, and feedback.

By continuously iterating on your survey based on feedback and data analysis, you can ensure that it remains effective when gathering insights from your target audience.

For example, if respondents consistently struggle with certain questions in your survey, it is a signal that you should consider revising the wording or structure of those questions to make them easier to answer, thus gathering valuable data.


Crafting effective survey questions is essential for gathering meaningful insights from respondents.

By following our provided key principles, from defining clear objectives and keeping questions simple to eventually improving based on the feedback, we can guarantee that you are about to create a survey that actually works well.

As thoughtful survey design lays the foundation for decision-making and positive outcomes in various fields, it is recommended that you continue to prioritize this aspect and make positive impacts throughout your business.

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