Lessons Learned from Programming 2,000 Surveys Over 20 Years
After 2 decades in the consumer research space, I forget that writing a survey can be daunting for the first-timer. Over the next 10 days I’ll be writing 10 posts about survey writing best practices for market research and user experience pros. Each post will have one tip which will elevate your survey game regardless if you are writing your first, or your thousandth survey and ensure you get the best possible answers.
As you are going through this post, please 👍 or share if you find things useful. 😃Thanks!
Tip 1: Question Numbering
We think of surveys as this neat linear flow of questions and answers. Sadly, that simply isn’t the case. Writing a questionnaire is a very messy process…especially if it involves getting feedback from others.
Instead of using “question numbers” use “question labels”. Why? Because each question is a variable in your dataset and variables have labels. So, why is that important? Because, in the same way that during the survey writing phase you’ll want to reference your questions with their numbers, you’ll want to reference variables with their labels throughout the analysis and presentation phases. This way, your question label can be consistency referenced during the life of your project.
I use a basic naming convention where each question is referenced more like a variable. For example,
S1. What is your gender?
The “S1” is the label of the question and will stay with the question regardless of its location in the survey, e.g. it may get moved, removed and added back many times during the process. This permanent reference keeps data straight as well as removes confusion when people are referencing specific questions.
Always use a letter for the first character of your question label. You can use the same letter for questions that are similar in nature, like demographic questions start with the letter “D”, psychographic questions with “P”, screening questions with “S”, etc. This gives you a cheat sheet when looking at your survey and ties your data back to your questionnaire.
PRO TIP: If you label questions that you frequently use across other projects such as…
“What is your gender?”
…with the same label, e.g. reserve S1 to always be your gender question OR simply label that question “gender“, you create comparability across projects giving your one-off research a long tail of value for research on research. This is especially helpful if you use a tool like KnowledgeHound for data visibility and accessibility over time.
..with the same label, e.g. reserve S1 to always be your gender question OR simply label that question “gender“, you create comparability across projects giving your one-off research a long tail of value for research on research. This is especially helpful if you use a tool like KnowledgeHound for data visibility and accessibility over time.
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