Survey Design: Item Writing
The guidelines for writing quality survey items can be categorized between closed or open-ended questions. All questions should be as specific as possible and use words virtually all respondents will understand.
|Closed||Require respondents to select an answer from a list of options||
|Open-ended||Allow respondents to formulate an answer in their own words||
Before you begin to collect data, you should always review your questions, addressing content, cognition, and usability.
- Content. Are the questions relevant to the research topic?
- Cognition. Do respondents understand the questions being asked?
- Usability. Can respondents complete the survey easily?
Testing the questions with outside parties is also helpful. Some aids include:
- Expert Reviewers. See Resources & Services for a list of offices on-campus who can help you plan, review, and edit your survey.
- Field Tests. Presenting your survey to a focus group or trial population will help you anticipate every answer and point out the strengths and weaknesses of a survey.
- Behavior Coding. Use a third party to monitor the interaction between the interviewer and respondent in a survey field test and look for problems in the questionnaire or its administration.