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Designing Quality Survey Questions

Designing Quality Survey Questions

June 2018 | 256 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Surveys are a cornerstone of social and behavioral research, and with the use of web-based tools, surveys have become an easy and inexpensive means of gathering data. But how researchers ask a question can dramatically influence the answers they receive. 

Designing Quality Survey Questions shows readers how to craft high quality, precisely-worded survey questions that will elicit rich, nuanced, and ultimately useful data to help answer their research or evaluation questions. The authors address challenges such as language preferences for standard demographic questions (e.g. How to ask about gender), creative question design to keep respondents engaged and avoid survey fatigue, web-based survey formats, culturally-responsive survey design, and factors that influence survey responses (memory, social desirability, etc.). Numerous examples of questions illustrate each identified principle of question construction. 

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Chapter 1: WHY Quality Surveys and Quality Questions Matter
What is a Quality Survey?  
Why does Quality Matter?  
Why do we need a purposeful survey design process?  
Applying design thinking to survey research  
A purposeful survey design process  
An iterative process  
Part I: WHAT to Consider Before Drafting Survey Questions
Chapter 2: Planning and Pre-drafting
Why survey? The important of establishing purpose  
What will be measured? Understanding constructs and indicators  
Wait, do you really need a survey?  
What can be measured with a survey?  
What are the advantages and limitations of surveys?  
Chapter 3: Understanding Respondents
Cognitive tasks involved in answering questions  
Respondents' willingness and Ability to participate in a survey  
Part II: HOW to Develop Survey Questions and Response Options
Chapter 4: Sourcing and Crafting Questions
Sourcing survey questions  
Composing question stems  
Avoiding problematic working and question types  
Open-ended questions  
Closed-ended questions  
Chapter 5: Constructing Response Questions
Determining Appropriate response options  
Strategies for Designing response options  
Chapter 6: Special and Sensitive Questions
Questions with Special Purposes  
Sensitive Questions  
Demographic Questions  
Part III: Knowing WHEN a Survey is Ready for Use
Chapter 7: Finalizing survey questions and pulling it all together
Why pretest surveys and their questions?  
How can surveys and their questions be tested prior to use?  
Chapter 8: Pulling it all together to maximise response
Survey instructions  
Order effects  
Formatting the survey  
Contacting potential respondents  

“This is a comprehensive, concise guide to creating quality items that provides guidance and rationale for design choices that will improve survey research.”

Anne K. Hughes
Michigan State University

“A one-stop shopping manual to survey design.” 

Allison K. Wisecup
Radford University
Key features


  • A design thinking framework helps researchers understand and empathize with their potential respondents and be able to build and test survey prototypes before administering surveys.
  • Direct guidance on potentially difficult aspects of survey writing, including crafting clear question stems and appropriate response options, working with sensitive question types, and understanding how question wording can influence response, address considerations for writing and administering surveys.
  • Stories from the Field boxes provide “real world” experiences collected from practitioners who share lessons learned about survey design.
  • Design Drills exercises challenge the reader and support application of the information included.
  • Discussion Questions designed for group discussion or individual reflection on the content included.

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