If interviews or surveys are primary research methods you choose to use, writing survey questions and interview questions of good quality directly affects the value of the information either method produces. Mistakes are easy to make without even realizing you are making them. To avoid mistakes that create questions of poor quality, avoid the following types of questions:
An assuming question usually creates a response that participants assume you want based on the wording of the question. Avoiding this in writing survey questions and interview questions is important because you want true answers that reflect the thoughts, feelings and opinions of your participants. Usually, an assuming question makes a statement that is followed by a question that assumes the person being asked agrees with the statement you made.
Assuming question: There are many American who think that Congress is ineffective. Are you someone who thinks that?
Rewritten without assumption: Do you agree or disagree that Congress is ineffective?
A biased question leads your participants to answer it in a particular fashion. Writing survey questions and interview questions that are neither worded with bias nor written with biased terms impacts the responses you get. For every question, you want a truthful and accurate response. Biased questions might lead participants to answer in a way that differs from what they really think or feel, and this drastically weakens the strength of your research.
Biased question: The gridlock in Congress as of late is a problem, isn’t it?
Rewritten without bias: Does the gridlock that happens in Congress create a problem?
While sometimes writing survey questions and interview questions requires more than one question to obtain the information you seek, the questions should be separated and not combined into one. These two-part questions can create a problem in two ways. First, a participant may only answer one part of the question. Second, a participant’s answer to the first part of the question may omit the necessity of the second part if it focuses on something with which they do not agree.
Multiple-question question: Do you think the gridlock in Congress creates a problem and that members of Congress should work together more to reach bipartisan solutions that fix the problem?
If a participant does not think that the gridlock is a problem, then the second part of the question does not apply. Instead, form one question, and ask the second question if it still applies based on a participant’s answer.
Rewritten without multiple parts: Do you think the gridlock in Congress creates a problem?
If the answer given is yes, ask the second part of the original question on its own:
Second question: Do you think that members of Congress should work together more to reach bipartisan solutions that fix the problem?
While writing survey questions and interview questions, you might inadvertently develop questions that do not directly relate to what you are studying. Always make sure your questions stay on topic. To do this, think about what type of responses you are likely to receive to the questions. Having someone else read or test your questions by answering them is also a good way to make sure the questions are relevant. Unrelated questions have little value for your research. If you were writing about the problems in Congress as a result of partisanship, the questions below would be considered unrelated:
Unrelated question #1: Do you disagree with any recent laws passed by Congress?
Unrelated question #2: Would you give Congress a favorable or unfavorable overall rating?
While these questions still mention Congress, they are outside the scope of what you are researching.
Avoiding wordiness is important in writing survey questions and interview questions because confusion often results. Keep your questions as brief as possible; confusion is more likely to lead to inadequate answers or participants not understanding exactly what you are asking. It is also important to be clear with any references by getting specific when necessary.
Confusing question: What do you think about Congress?
This is confusing because it does not specify what aspect of Congress a participant does or does not disagree. You could be referring to a specific law, how it votes on laws or even whether a participant agrees with the actual body of Congress existing in the first place. Being clear lets your participants know exactly to what you are referring.
Rewritten with clarity: What do you think about the gridlock in Congress?
A wordy question, on the other hand, often rambles on and leaves participants wondering exactly what you are asking.
Wordy question: Do you believe that the gridlock in Congress is ineffective because it prevents lawmakers from compromising on issues where they don’t see eye-to-eye in every aspect, or do you think that the gridlock is just a product of differing outlooks that do not offer common ground on which to base solutions?
Rewritten without wordiness: What are your thoughts on the gridlock in Congress?
Making sure questions are clear, free of bias, assumptions and that questions stay relevant impacts the results you receive from writing survey questions and interview questions. If you undertake this type of primary research, writing good questions is your first priority and the biggest determiner in how well the results from your efforts are what you expect.