You are here

The Art of Surveys | Asking the Right Questions

Of course it’s not. We in the Research industry are fully aware that obtaining the correct answers can be a complex and occasionally difficult process. This week’s A-Z of Market Research is all about questions and their importance to us in the industry.

The most useful and relevant results come from well-thought-out questions, which have been tailored for a specific audience. Asking the right questions of the right people is essential to good research. As simple as it may be, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves from time to time of the most basic principles of questioning. We all (particularly in the Quant Field side of Market Research) deal with surveys on a regular basis, and theoretically we understand how important it is for us to ask the most suitable questions to our respondents. But are we putting all that theory into practice?

What are you talking about?

The first thing to remember about survey-research is that are no wrong questions, only irrelevant ones. Keep to your topic and only ask the questions which you know will produce useful responses. Clarity is key to gaining the most from your surveys. Will respondents be able to answer them? Will they understand the questions? Keep them simple and succinct; enough to make the questions as clear as possible without being too long or wordy.

It is also important to avoid jargon and industry-specific knowledge. It sounds obvious to most of us, but adding a piece of Marketing or Research terminology into our surveys without realising can be easily done. It can be difficult taking ourselves out of the “Research sphere” where we are used to dropping industry jargon into conversation without a second thought. So assess your audience thoroughly and remember to choose your words carefully.

Tell me your story

The layout and order of your survey is another aspect to think about. Just throwing a set of questions at someone willy nilly is not going to produce the ideal results. Some researchers describe the process as a “journey”, where the respondents, essentially, tell a story. This can involve starting with more general questions (name, age, home city etc.) which act as the introduction. As the journey continues, the questions can become more specific (main body of the story) until they reach the conclusion/end of the journey which finishes with a more thought-provoking or complex question (the grand finale!).

Are you ready?

Finally, remember to pre-test your questions before sending them to your sample. This doesn’t have to be a major task, just enough to gain a better understanding of how people will respond to your survey. No matter how perfect you think your questions are, it is always advisable to get a second (or third) opinion.

These factors are some of the most basic principles of questioning, but getting them right each time is essential, so it’s always worthwhile to remind ourselves of the do’s and don’ts.