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White Paper: Garbage In, Garbage Out Survey-Question Design February 2010

About This Report

Questions: As a general rule, the quality of data generated by survey research depends on the quality of the questions used.

Responses: After a survey has been conducted, there is no compensation for suboptimal data gathered from poorly designed survey questions.

Analysis: Well-crafted survey items increase the potential to yield the most accurate and useful insights in future research and strategic efforts.

Gathering valid survey data that can be acted upon with confidence requires a careful approach to survey question design. When companies field surveys without paying attention to survey questions, the most important ingredients to any marketing strategy may be suboptimal. The old adage of "garbage in – garbage out" can serve as a useful reminder about the importance of survey question design. In addition to making informed decisions about each survey questionnaire item, a fruitful approach to marketing questionnaires should also include taking a holistic view of the effort. Considering the kinds of effects and decisions about survey questions presented in this white paper can significantly increase the return on investment when conducting marketing research.

Table of Contents

The Purpose of Survey Research 1
Problems with Using Long Questions Needlessly 2
When to Force Choice or Use "Select All that Apply" 3
How Much Is "A Lot?" 5
Double Barrels 7
Should "Neutral" Be an Option? 9
Just Ask? 10
Pretesting 12
Summary 13