6 Common Survey Writing Mistakes | Market Research Syracuse

Survey writing. It's something everyone might think they can do, but it takes a professional to do it correctly. Much like you wouldn't hire an amateur to work on your vehicle, hire an amateur to manage your retirement plan, or try to fly a plane without any training, you should look for a Syracuse market research company to assist with your survey. Choose one that has the experience and the know-how to write an actionable survey script. One that provides you data for recommendations, action items, and next steps.

Look for an experienced market research company or team to assist your organization with your next survey.

There are several common mistakes amateur survey writers unknowingly make. Without a background in survey design and programming, they are easy to overlook. Here is a highlight of 6 common survey writing mistakes that are easy to make without experience in the field.

6 Common Survey Writing Mistakes | Market Research Syracuse


Mistake 1: Double-barreled questions

A double-barreled question is exactly how it sounds. This type of question attempts to cover 2 separate objectives in one single question. By using a double-barreled question, it is impossible to isolate each factor independently. This may be one of, if not the most common survey writing mistake.

Here is an example. "Using a scale of 1 to 5 where "5" indicates very satisfied and "1" indicates not at all satisfied, how satisfied are you with the customer service and the price of the plan you purchased?" In this example, the respondent is to forced to choose one rating even though ratings for customer service and price may differ significantly. To correct this, the survey writer needs to isolate factors and ask each separately.


Mistake 2: Leading the respondent

Careful and choice wording in a survey is essential to receiving unbiased and accurate results. Any attempt to influence an answer directly or subtly, can have a major impact on reliability. The goal of market research is to remain objective and to collect unbiased results, so as a survey writer, you need to make absolutely certain this holds true.

Here is an obvious example. "Don't you agree this concept would be appealing to customers? Yes or No." The statement is clearly trying to lead the respondent to agree with the concept being appealing and the initial language is unneeded.

Here is a more subtle example. "Our customer service is available 24/7. How would you rate our accessibility?" Although the statement may be factual, reminding the customer of this availability is unneeded. What matters is their perception, uninfluenced by a preceding statement.


Mistake 3: Not being mutually exclusive

The first half of the classic MECE rule in market research. The ME part of it is mutually exclusive. This ensures all of your answer categories offered in the survey are mutually exclusive of one another. No overlap. In addition to mistake 1, this is also a very common mistake made in survey writing.

Here is an example. "Which of the following best describes your age? Under 18, 18 to 25, 25 to 35, 35 to 45?" If the respondent is 25 years of age, or 35 years of age, which answer category do they select? This shows the selection options not being mutually exclusive.


Mistake 4: Not being collectively exhaustive

The second half of MECE is collectively exhaustive. Collectively exhaustive ensures all possible answer choices are covered in a series. Leaving out or omitting responses in a survey can create havoc on your results because you may not have covered all potential responses.

Here is an example. "Which of the following social media sites do you use? LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook?" What if the respondent only uses Instagram or only uses Snapchat? No answer selections exist for these. A recommendation here is to always include "other(s)" as an option. This at least ensures the respondent has an option to type in omitted responses. Reviewing these early in fieldwork will help the analyst understand if anything was missed.


Mistake 5: Using a multiple response for a single response question

When writing a survey, make sure you understand whether you want to force a single response or a multiple response. Each will produce different results. We've seen survey writers ask respondents to choose their most important factor but mistakenly allow for multiple responses. Therefore you have some respondents selecting one and others selecting 4 most important criteria.

Here is an example. "Which of the following advertisements is the most appealing one to you?" If the survey writer allows for multiple responses here it will create a mess of data where some answer one and others answer several. If 400 respondents completed your survey, it would be nice to have 400 selections on their most appealing advertisement. It's cleaner.


Mistake 6: Not using skip patterns

This is often a virtue of not having advanced survey software. Survey programs allow survey writers to skip appropriate questions and avoid respondents from having to answer questions that do not apply to them. People are strapped for time. Any additional work on their end in a survey increases the likelihood of dropout.

Here is an example. "Did you visit store ABC in the past 3 months?" Let's say the respondent answers "no". Yet, the follow-up question asks "what product(s) did you purchase from Store ABC in the past 3 months?" This obviously should not be asked based on prior responses.


Those are 6 of the more common survey writing mistakes our team runs across. We hope you avoid these mistakes in the future or look for a professional and experienced market research company to assist with your project. Drive Research is a market research company in Syracuse. We custom-build online surveys for all of our clients ensuring our scripts meet your unique needs and objectives.

Questions about how Drive Research can help you?

Email us at info@driveresearch.com or by calling 315-303-2040.

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