Good research and good insight begin with good questions. A successful research strategy a) starts with clear objectives and b) translates to a questionnaire that addresses your needs.

To define your objectives, keep the end-goal in mind: What insights do I want to produce? What are my expectations? Once you have established this, you can focus on the nitty-gritty of questionnaire design.  We discuss 7 ways to ask better questions.

1. Ask one question at a time

Do you listen to the radio at home and in the car? Yes or No. If you cannot answer the question, neither can the respondent. Double-barreled questions are not only difficult to answer but impossible to analyse.

2. Go beyond yes or no questions

Consider the question: Do you watch TV? Most people would answer yes, but the question will reveal little about their media habits. A better question is: What is your primary source of information? In this case, internet searches and social media may challenge the popularity of television.

3. Be clear

Spell out questions relating to the frequency of behavior. As a response to the question How often do you use Facebook, rather than the options “rarely”, “sometimes”, “often” – use “every day”, “every week”, “never”.

4. Avoid leading questions

Would you agree that X FM is the best radio station, as they have over 500 000 listeners? This is an easy way to get the answer you want. Favoring one answer, conclusions based on this data may misrepresent consumers’ attitudes.

5. Ordering matters

Priming refers to a phenomenon where people’s responses are conditioned by a preceding stimulus. In a survey questionnaire, question A can influence the response to question B. Information will not change (I watch digital TV), but opinions may (I like the idea of digital TV) – it is recommended to ask opinions first. Randomized ordering will ensure unbiased responses.

6. The art of asking indirectly

When you need to ask sensitive questions, replace “what do you think?” with “what statement resembles the views of your friends or community?”. To ask political opinions, health status or detailed income questions ask, “what does your best friend spend on make-up?”, “what does your partner think about President Trump?” or “is a healthy diet prioritized in your community?”.

7. Keep it interesting!

Incentives can boost your sample size, but interesting questions will persuade respondents to complete the questionnaire carefully. Apply creative ideas to your research too!