Have you ever sat down to create a survey and realised every word you use matters? Seriously, your words, question order, and answers shape how each person takes that survey. If you don't pick carefully, you could create either a biased or meaningless survey. The worst thing you could do is create a survey from which you can't even use the results.
What Is a Survey Question?
The purpose of survey questions is to gather data about respondents' attitudes, behaviours, opinions, or experiences. This feedback is collected to conduct research, and the information received can be used to inform decision-making.
Survey question types
The best way to start your survey is to understand each part of it. The most important part is formulating and choosing your questions.
For starters, there are five main types of survey questions. Keep in mind that each type of question collects a different type of data, and while many survey questions are closed-ended, you can also leverage open-ended questions to great effect.
1. Open-ended questions
This type of question is used to gain more insight into how the respondent feels. These require much attention, so only use them when it makes sense.
Open-ended questions are helpful because the respondent's answer is not based on the researcher's assumptions. Instead, it's a personalised answer every time. These questions are more time-consuming to analyse but provide deep feedback.
Remember, when crafting open-ended questions, you want to be as specific as possible to guide respondents' answers and ensure responses are detailed and useful to your research.
"What could we have added to our event to make it more enticing?"
2. Multiple-choice questions
This question type is often used to gather demographic information or find out about various issues. Multiple-choice questions can require a single answer or offer multiple answer selections.
Use these to group people based on what you already know. For instance, if only five colour choices are available for event promotional materials and you are polling your attendees on their favourite colour, only list the five options available.
What is your marital status? (Select one)
- Living with Partner
3. Ordinal Scale Questions
This question type asks respondents to rank a range of items or choose from an ordered set. This is helpful when you want to determine the importance of each criterion. Make sure to identify your number scale (1 being the first choice and 5 being the last choice, etc.).
When considering a job offer, please rank the importance of the following (Please fill in your rank order using numbers 1 through 5, with 1 being the most important):
- Positive working environment
- Vacation time
- Challenging workload
4. Interval scale questions
This is the most commonly used question type. On an interval scale, it is important that the space between each option, whether it’s a number range or a feeling range, are equal. You have probably seen scales asking about agreement strength, likelihood, or satisfaction (i.e., very unsatisfied, unsatisfied, neither satisfied nor unsatisfied, satisfied, very satisfied).
Use these questions when you want to gauge the opinion of your respondents. How do they feel when it's measured out in front of them?
Please rate the quality of this event.
Very Poor | Poor | Satisfactory | Good | Excellent
5. Ratio scale questions
This question type asks respondents to answer in a measurable way. You’ve likely seen ratio scale questions about income, age, or hours spent. Ratio scale questions have a true zero and oftentimes will be presented in an ordinal way with ranges. However, these ranges can still be treated as ratio responses for analysis.
How many hours a day do you spend on a computer?
0-2 hours | 2-4 hours | 4-6 hours | more than 6 hours
Selecting the correct question type is an essential part of any survey design. Carefully consider the question type(s) in your next survey in order to obtain significant data.
What are examples of survey questions?
Want a little more help formulating your survey questions? Take a look at these examples of survey questions and consider how you might leverage the different question types to get the information you're looking for.
Open-ended question examples
- What made you choose to attend our event?
- What is one thing you would change about this year's event?
- What are two ways we could improve accessibility at our event?
Multiple-choice question examples
1. Where would you like us to hold next year's event?
2. How did you hear about our event?
- Social Media
- Word of mouth
- Your company
- Other (please specify)
Ordinal scale question examples
1. When deciding to attend our event, please rank the importance of the following (Please fill in your rank order using numbers 1 through 5, with 1 being the most important):
- Networking opportunities
- Session topics and speakers
- Career growth / educational opportunities
- Travel budget
- Location appeal / "bleisure" opportunities
2. When promoting your events, please rank the following tactics in order of effectiveness (1 through 5, with 1 being the most effective):
- X (Formerly Twitter)
- Direct Email
Interval scale question examples
1. How strongly do you agree with this statement? "I am satisfied with the session content and speakers at this year's event."
- Strongly agree
- Strongly disagree
2. How strongly do you agree with this statement? "This event was worth the cost of attending."
- Strongly agree
- Strongly disagree
Ratio scale question examples
1. How many months in advance do you typically begin planning your events?
- 0-2 months
- 3-6 months
- 7-9 months
- 10-12 months
- More than 1 year in advance
2. In the past 12 months, how many events have you attended through your company?
- More than 10 events
For more on surveys, check out the Cvent Survey Platform.