Guest Blog: Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Client When Designing a Survey

We are happy to introduce you to guest blogger, Melissa, another McKinley consultant. Melissa is experienced in all facets of market research from survey design, methodology selection, implementation, and data analysis. She has decided to share with our readers her insights on crafting a survey. 

Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Client When Designing a Survey

By Melissa Paluch

Survey design seems deceptively simple – writing questions and plugging them into an inexpensive survey platform du jour.  However, throughout my long tenure in research, I’ve witnessed some very intelligent people create surveys that simply “did not get the job done.”  So, I’ve decided to pass along some tips on effective survey design.

Things to consider when crafting your survey:

1. What survey mode(s) will be used to ask the questions?
Believe it or not, survey mode selection can sometimes go hand in hand with meeting client objectives.  For example, if one of your objectives is to test an advertising concept, a survey conducted online or by mail would be advisable as the respondents will be able to view the advertisement they are evaluating with these two modes.

2.  Are the survey questions being repeated from another survey and will the answers need to be compared? 
Save yourself time.  If you are working on a customer satisfaction survey for a client, find out which questions they would like to have remain the same for comparison from year to year, or quarter to quarter.

3. Will the respondents be willing and motivated to answer accurately? 
Questions that are poorly constructed and/or instructions that are difficult to understand can make respondents less likely to answer.  Also, consider the sensitivity of the topics of your questions.  Asking potential respondents about undesirable behaviors and personal financial matters can often go unanswered.

4. What kinds of information are the questions asking for? 
Questions requiring factual demographic information are easy for respondents to answer.  However, sometimes surveys ask respondents for answers that they cannot easily come up with, such as the recollection of past events, or making mathematical calculations.   You should come up with answer choices that are more vague.  For example, a question inquiring about the time of year for a past vacation, may be more easily and accurately answered by the respondent if the choices are for seasons of the year, as opposed to a certain month.

One final point, before you field your survey make sure that you have your client and/or colleagues review it.  After all, if they are having trouble answering some of your questions, or find some cumbersome, most likely the respondent will too!


PaluchMelissa2Melissa Paluch is principal of Busybee research + consulting, a boutique quantitative and qualitative research firm based in the Washington, D.C. metro area, with clients spanning associations, education, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, publishing, advertising and public relations.

by McKinley Marketing Partners