Top tips for writing good research questions

You’ve got an important question that needs answering and a research budget and you want to find out views of a sample of the UK population. Time is ticking, and you need results delivered as soon as possible.

💡 Time to run a survey.

Where do I start?

Read on to find out more about how important asking the right questions can be for your business.

Questions, questions, questions

Asking the incorrect or wrongly worded question can lead to poor quality data. You could end up with unusable data simply because the research has been rushed and the questions have not been thought through.

The following tips can help you when designing your research.

  1. 💡 Use simple, coherent language

    It is important to consider your audience when designing questions. A lot of the literature recommends a maximum number of words per question. We recommend writing up to twenty words per question, avoiding jargon and complex wording. If you are using terminology, it’s important to include a definition, remembering that your audience may not know or remember the meaning.

    Poor:

    What is your annual gross household income?

    Good:

    Gross HOUSEHOLD income is the combined income of all those earners in a household from all sources (including wages, salaries, or rents) before tax deductions.

    What is your annual gross household income?

  2. 💡 Balance the question wording

    Do not include bias in your survey questions. Doing so could inadvertently force a respondent to think a certain way. Remain impartial and fair to get a balance viewpoint. Never try to persuade respondents into buying a product or service, this would invalidate your research project.

    Poor:

    How satisfied are you with [company name’s] customer service?

    Good:

    How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with [company name’s] customer service?

  3. 💡 Limit the number of statements in a grid question

    A grid question typically consists of statements which respondents rate against a scale. (E.g. Strongly agree to strongly disagree)

    Bias can be hard to control when there are too many statements included in this question type. Respondents may simply click the same scale option for all statements as this is fast and would move them onto the next question. A long list also brings in the dreaded survey fatigue for respondents.

    We recommend splitting the questions up if you have a long list of statements you need testing, with a maximum of five statements per question. Of course, we’d recommend randomising statements and flip scales to reduce social bias and poor quality data.

  4. 💡 Don’t ask double-barrelled questions

    Make questions easy to answer. Ask about one thing at a time. Referring to multiple topics in one question can confuse respondents and cause problems when trying to analyse what the data means or refers to.

    Poor:

    How would you rate the hotel’s accommodation, food and rooms?

    Good:

    How would you rate the hotel’s accommodation?
    How would you rate the hotel’s food?
    How would you rate the hotel’s rooms?

  5. 💡 The power of a don’t know option

    Adding a don’t know option can help accommodate respondents who are unsure on an answer to a question. Without this option, respondents are forced to answer the question whether they understand it or not. If a question is related to a product and respondents have not used it, they would not be able to provide an answer. Without it, data could be unreliable as assumptions are made for all responding.

    Poor:

    How important or unimportant is the scent when using a deodorant?

    Very important
    Fairly important
    Neither
    Somewhat unimportant
    Not important at all

    Good:

    How important or unimportant is the scent when using a deodorant?

    Very important
    Fairly important
    Neither
    Somewhat unimportant
    Not important at all
    Don’t know

Data Pad can help. We run regular omnibus surveys of 2000 nationally representative 18+ individuals in the United Kingdom. Our research team can help review and ensure your questions meet your research objectives. Get in touch now.

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