Common Survey Question Types and Examples
Multiple choice questions
Multiple choice questions have two or more answer options. Useful for all types of feedback, including collecting demographic information. Answers can be “yes/no” or a choice of multiple answers. Beware of leaving out an answer option, or using answer options that are not mutually exclusive.
Example 1: Are you a U.S. Citizen? Yes / No
Example 2: How many times have you called our agency about this issue in the past month?
□ Three times
□ More than three times
□ Don’t know/not sure
Rank order scale questions
Questions that require the ranking of potential answer choices by a specific characteristic. These questions can provide insight into how important something is to a customer. Best in online or paper surveys, but doesn’t work too well in phone surveys.
Example: Please rank the following customer service factors, from most to least important to you, when interacting with us. (1=most important; 5=least important)
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
□ □ □ □ □ Call wait time
□ □ □ □ □ Call hold time
□ □ □ □ □ Representative’s customer service skills
□ □ □ □ □ Representative’s knowledge skills
□ □ □ □ □ Resolution of issue
Rating scale questions
Rating scale questions that use a rating scale for responses. This type of question is useful for determining the prevalence of an attitude, opinion, knowledge or behavior.
There are two common types of scales:
1. Likert scale
Participants are typically asked whether they agree or disagree with a statement. Responses often range from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree,” with five total answer options. (For additional answer options, see table below.)
Each option is ascribed a score or weight (1 = strong disagree to 5 = strongly agree), and these scores can be used in survey response analysis. For scaled questions, it is important to include a “neutral” category (“Neither Agree nor Disagree” below).
Example: “The customer service representative was knowledgeable”
□ 1. Strongly Disagree
□ 2. Disagree
□ 3. Neither Agree nor Disagree
□ 4. Agree
□ 5. Strongly Agree
2. Semantic differential scale
In a question using a semantic differential scale, the ends of the scale are labeled with contrasting statements. The scales can vary, typically using either five or seven points.
Example: “How would you describe your experience navigating our website?
□ 1. Very Hard to Navigate
□ 2. Somewhat Hard
□ 3. Neither Hard nor Easy
□ 4. Somewhat Easy
□ 5. Very Easy to Navigate
Open-ended questions have no specified answer choices. These are particularly helpful for collecting feedback from your participants about their attitudes or opinions. However, these questions may require extra time or can be challenging to answer, so participants may skip the questions or abandon the survey.
In addition, the analysis of open-ended questions can be difficult to automate, and may require extra time or resources to review. Consider providing extra motivation to elicit a response (e.g., “Your comments will help us improve our website”) and ensure there is enough space for a complete response.
Example: What are two ways we could have improved your experience with our agency today? We take your feedback very seriously and review comments daily.
Next time, we’ll discuss common mistakes and how to avoid them
(Many thanks to USA.gov for guidance on question design.)
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ABOUT Lisa M. Chapman:
Ms. Chapman’s new book has a name change! The Net Powered Entrepreneur – A Step-by-Step Guide will be available in April 2012. Lisa M. Chapman serves her clients as a business and marketing coach, business planning consultant and social media consultant. She helps clients to establish and enhance their online brand, attract their target market, engage them in meaningful social media conversations, and convert online traffic into revenues. Email: Lisa @ LisaChapman.com