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How to Write Unbiased Survey Questions

Writing unbiased survey questions is the first step in ensuring your findings are actionable, and insightful.Writing a survey can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to designing the questions in a way so they don’t lead your responders. Writing leading questions not only skews the data, but it also limits what findings can be determined. This checklist will help you to write unbiased survey questions.

1. Likert Scale

The likert scale is a tool used to determine how strongly a respondent agrees or disagrees with a statement (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree). By using a likert scale in your survey you avoid displaying your bias in the nature of the responses allowed.

2. Assumptions

Never make assumptions in your questions. Questions should be formed around facts and statements rather than opinions.
For example: The question “Do you agree that dog owners should be able to walk their dogs without leads in the park?” is making the assumption that dog owners want to be able to walk their dogs without leads, and that more people will agree with the statement. By placing an opinion in the question, you are leading people to respond in that way.

3. Open Ended / Other

Always include an “other” or an “open ended” section for questions that may restrict responses. Asking someone to confine their opinion or responses into pre-determined ‘buckets’ may be blocking you from uncovering valuable trends.
4. Clear and Concise

All questions should be clear in their delivery and be answerable by everyone that you’re asking.

5. Double Barreled Questions

Double Barreled questions are questions that ask people to consider more than one concept.
For example: How do you feel about the new lays chips flavors, Southern Biscuits and Gravy and Greektown Gyro?

By asking responders how they feel about two separate concepts in one question data will be misleading, and may not be revealing of the right data.

6. Test the Survey

It’s usually difficult to detect our own bias in questions, so run your survey past friends and family and see if it yields surprising results. If you know the way someone feels and they respond differently take another look at the question and see if you lead them to that response.

Here are some examples of re-writing your questions to eliminate the bias:

Biased: How much did you enjoy the webinar?

Unbiased: On a scale of 1-5, please rate your enjoyment of the webinar.

Biased: How satisfied are you with the information you received?

Unbiased: Please rate your level of satisfaction with the information provided in the webinar.

Biased: A recent poll indicated that 88% of people were happy with our last webinar. How do you feel about the webinar presentation?

Unbiased: Please tell us your feelings on the overall webinar.

One of the biggest reasons businesses with inadvertently write biased questions is because usually it’s encouraged to write actively, whether it’s in resumes, blog posts or anything. In surveys, however, you want the writing to be almost bland and straightforward. This way you will eliminate the bias and accurately capture the participants true sentiment.

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