This post contains everything you need to know about how to write a survey and the pitfalls you might encounter along the way.
Surveys provide important data about your audience, customers and even employees that’ll help improve your product, service and consumer understanding. But writing a survey is tricky. Just a few biased words can send your entire survey’s results down the drain.
So how do you create surveys that capture accurate and unbiased information about your audience? Well in this post, you’ll learn:
- The purpose of surveys
- The 5 golden rules for writing a survey
- The different types of surveys
- 5 easy steps to creating a survey that works.
Are you ready to get started?
What Is The Purpose Of Surveys?
Surveys are useful for entrepreneurs, freelancers and companies looking to gain knowledge and improve their product or service. They are especially helpful for freelance writers who are constantly looking to improve their writing style and process.
For example, you could forward a survey to your clients to learn what you did right and how to make the writing process easier for them. This allows you to constantly evolve as a writer and command higher and higher rates.
Now that you know the purpose surveys serve, take a minute to review the 5 golden rules for writing a survey.
The 5 Golden Rules For Writing a Survey
You can easily get biased answers on a survey, and that invalidates your results. This can lead you to think your service doesn’t need improvement when it does.
If you follow these 5 basic rules when writing surveys, you can be sure the answers are unbiased and accurate.
1. Ask Close Ended Questions
Although great for conversion, an open-ended question is more difficult to answer, as it requires more effort and thinking time than close-ended questions.
Here’s an example of an open-ended question: “What do you think about chocolate?”
A close ended question sounds more like, “How important is chocolate to you?”
Then you offer answer options like very important, important, and not important.
Notice how much more thinking and creativity the first question requires? If you ask too many open-ended questions, you risk participants dropping out and not completing your survey.
Open-ended questions are also unreliable. They require people to recall what happened, and this often leads to inaccurate answers.
As a rule of thumb, don’t ask more than two open-ended questions per survey. If possible, put your open-ended questions on a separate page. That way, if someone drops out, you can collect their answers for the close ended questions on the first page.
2. Ask Only Neutral Questions
If you’re thinking of selling email security, and you ask participants if they care about their email getting hacked, you’ll get biased answers. The topic isn’t a problem that keeps all people up at night, although they know they should care about it.
This is an example of a leading question. Your opinion affects how participants answer a question they don’t relate to.
More obvious examples of leading questions include, “How awesome do you think our customer service is?” And, “We think our sales team is great. How great do you think they are?”
Asking questions like this can skew your survey results since participants are likely to agree with you.
Instead, ask something like, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how good do you think our customer service team is?” This allows participants to give an unbiased answer.
3. Provide a Balanced Set Of Answer Choices
In the same way you ask neutral questions, provide answers that are as unbiased as possible, or you risk damaging the credibility of all your answers. An example of biased answer choices is asking participants how good your product is and offering these options:
- Extremely good
- Very good
In this example, you didn’t offer an option to answer that your services are bad. Instead, provide objective answers like:
- Extremely good
- Very good
- Neither good nor bad
- Very bad
- Or extremely bad.
This gives participants an option to respond that your services aren’t good, and you’ll have an opportunity to ask for feedback and improve.
4. Ask One Question At a Time
If you ask participants two questions at once, you’ll confuse them. This error is as bad as, if not worse than, asking biased questions. In both cases, participants can’t express their true opinion.
For example, you might ask your clients, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you rate our content marketing and email marketing services?”
This confuses participants because they are forced to answer both questions with one answer. Typically, they’ll just rate one service and completely ignore the other.
Luckily, the solution is simple. Ask one question at a time.
One question might be, “How do you rate our content marketing services?” Separately, ask, “How do you rate our email marketing services?” This lets your clients answer each question separately.
5. Ask Questions Only Once
Nobody likes answering the same questions over and over. It’s annoying and wastes your participants’ time. This increases the likelihood of them dropping out of the survey.
Instead, ask a question once, and if a few questions sound similar, spread them apart.
Now that you know the 5 golden rules a valid survey must follow, find out which type of survey is best for you.
Different Types Of Surveys
You can run several different types of surveys, depending on your needs. The most popular are:
- Multiple-choice surveys
- Rating surveys
- Likert scale surveys.
Multiple Choice Surveys
Multiple-choice surveys are by far the most popular type of surveys because they force you to ask close ended, which results in data that’s easy to break down and analyze. It’s also easier for participants to answer multiple-choice questions. This means they’re less likely to drop out of the survey.
You can choose from two types of multiple-choice surveys:
- Single-answer multiple-choice surveys
- Multiple-answer multiple-choice surveys.
As the name suggests, single-answer multiple-choice surveys allow participants to select only one answer; however, you should always include an “other” option in case a participant doesn’t relate to any of the answers you provided. This ensures you collect correct and unbiased data.
Multiple-answer multiple-choice surveys allow participants to select as many answers as they please. A circle next to an option lets participants tick off their selections.
Now that you understand the options multiple-choice surveys offer, read below to learn more about rating surveys.
Rating surveys ask participants how much they relate to something and offer an option between 1 and 10, with 1 being negative and 10 being positive.
Rating surveys are one of the best ways to know if your product or service is improving, staying the same or getting worse.
For example, you can send a survey to your customers asking how they would rate your product or service on a scale from 1 to 10. If your average at first is 7, but after a few months you send that same survey to the same people and your average is 8.5, you know you’re doing something right.
Likert Scale Surveys
A Likert scale survey usually appears on a five or seven-point scale, ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”.
Likert scale surveys document to what degree participants agree or disagree with your question or statement. This is a holistic way to measure customer satisfaction because countless factors influence a customer’s experience like speed of delivery, shopping experience, perceived value and customer support.
Maybe your customer support team is doing well, but your delivery service is a bit slow. With a Likert scale survey, you can easily find this weak point and improve on it.
Now that you understand the 5 rules you must follow when writing a survey and know several types of surveys, consider the 5 steps to writing a strong, valid survey.
Step 1: Think Of Important Questions To Ask Your Audience
The easiest way to come up with questions for your survey is to write down what you’re looking for and think about questions that’ll uncover those answers. For example, if you want to start selling sodas, the answer you’re seeking is people’s favorite soda flavors. You’ll then come up with a question like, “What is your favorite soda flavor?”
But this thought process isn’t relevant only to selling products. If you want to improve your services, you want to know where your clients think you can improve. In that case, ask a question like, “Which part of my service can I improve?” Then give options like communication, meeting deadlines, structuring posts or publishing articles.
Also, when asking your clients for feedback, use multiple-choice surveys with multiple answers since clients might want you to improve in more than one field.
Step 2: Ask Questions In a Clear And Concise Manner
Asking vague questions can lead to ambiguous, useless data. The more specific your questions are, the more accurate your answers will be.
Step 3: Run a Survey Report Test Drive
The last thing you want is to send your survey to participants then notice a typo, or worse, a problem with one of the questions or answers.
The solution is easy. Simply head over to a few Facebook writing groups and post your survey there. Ask group members if they notice any errors in your survey.
Step 4: Make Improvements
After you run a test drive and identify mistakes, correct them and make the necessary improvements.
Step 5: Release The Real Survey
Now that you’ve created your survey, gotten constructive criticism and improved your survey, send the questionnaire to your clients, customers or employees. If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ll be on your way to collecting crucial, accurate and meaningful data that will allow you to improve and evolve.
How to Write a Survey: The Final Word
Writing surveys is an important part of every business because it tells you what to improve and what you’re doing right. Most writers know surveying can be a hassle, and most of the time they get it wrong. That outcome leads to inaccurate data. By following the steps in this post, you’ll have all the knowledge your need to process an accurate survey report.
How Many Answer Choices Should I Have?
For ranking surveys, you can provide up to 10 answer choices because participants must rank your question or statement.
With multiple-choice, aim for less than 5 answers, as this prevents the paradox of choice.
How Do I Conduct Survey Research?
Before you engage in survey research, you first must know why you're conducting a survey. Do you want to improve your product or service? Are you administering market research?
Once you know why you need responses, find the answers you're looking for and create questions that'll give you those answers. For example, you might be thinking about selling T-shirts online but don’t know which colors sell best. The answer you’re looking for is the customer's favorite colors so ask them, “What are your favorite color T-shirts?”
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