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Having an understanding of the tools and techniques at your disposal is crucially important in survey design. How can you get the best responses if you don’t know how best to ask for them? In this blog post, we are delving into the basic question types that are used in a survey and when you should use them.
Closed vs Open Ended Questions
An open ended question allows respondents to answer a question in their own words, while a closed ended question has a predetermined set of responses. Open ended questions generally fall under the qualitative category, while closed ended questions are useful for quantitative analysis.
One of the main advantages of including closed-ended questions in your survey design is the ease at performing statistical analysis. These questions are ideal for calculating statistical data and percentages, as the answers set is known. Furthermore, respondents are more likely to answer a close-ended question as they are quick and require less effort.
An ideal questionnaire would include an open-ended question at the end of the questionnaire that seeks feedback and/or suggestions for improvements from respondents. By including open format questions in your questionnaire, you can get insightful and even unexpected suggestions.
The most common dichotomous question is the Yes/No question. Dichotomous questions are useful for streaming respondents and creating conditional paths in your survey. Additionally, they are quick and easy for respondents to answer (if framed correctly). However they do not provide much nuanced information; you cannot analyse the answers between yes and no, there is no scope for a middle perspective. Therefore, you should be careful when and where you use dichotomous questions.
Single vs Multiple Choice Questions
These types of questions are the most popular survey question type. Generally they are extremely versatile but there are two main types; single choice and multiple choice. The most basic variation is the single choice question. They are best used when trying to determine a respondent’s primary preference. Like a dichotomous question, it is quick and easy for a respondent to complete, especially on mobile. Single choice questions are also used for likert scale questions which we cover in the next section.
The other type of question is the multiple choice question. Often, the text of the question includes the lines “Select all that apply”. Multiple choice questions are useful for gathering personal preferences from a respondent.
Since these are close ended questions, the survey designer must provide the possible answers for respondents. In many of these questions, the possible answers you have listed are non-exhaustive, meaning you are probably forgetting a possible answer that a respondent would like to use. At Bounce, you can include the option “Other (please specify)” in your multiple choice questions so respondents can enter their own responses. Even if you do include the “Other” option, you should try to cover at least 90% of likely respondent answers in your pre-written answers, as this increases the ease of completing the survey for the respondent.
Likert Scale Questions
A Likert Question is a single choice question that uses a 5 point scale that ranges from one extreme attitude to another. Likert scales are widely used to measure attitudes and opinions with a greater degree of nuance than a simple “yes/no” question.
Neither agree nor disagree
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Not so helpful
Not so important
Not at all helpful
Not at all important
Matrix questions collect multi-dimensional data. Each column can have sub-columns with a scale having opposites on its end. For each option in the row, the respondent needs to select one of the sub-columns. Most often, some form of a Likert scale is used in matrix questions.
Generally, the sub-columns of a matrix question cover subtopics of a particular topic. Matrix questions are useful for reducing the length of our survey by linking similar questions with similar answer options.
A ranking question asks respondents to order answer choices by way of preference. This allows you to not only understand how respondents feel about each answer option, but it also helps you understand each one’s relative popularity.
Ranking questions are very useful for understanding the most important features/issues to a respondent and how they relate to each other, however they can take longer than the normal Likert or matrix question as respondents need to weigh the options. Therefore, you should only use a ranking question if it is necessary to know what respondents would prioritise.
On the Bounce dashboard, we provide a number of specialised formats for your questions. These include:
- Image Questions: These allow respondents to select one image from many options. This question type improves respondents’ survey experience and gives a break from answering all textual questions. They are ideal for gathering research on branding and advertising choices.
- Rating Questions: These display a scale of answer options from any range (1 to 3, 1 to 10, etc.).
- Sliders: A slider question allows respondent to include into a numerical scale, ideal for responses that require a percentage or monetary value.
- Dates/Time: These question formats allow respondents to input a singular date/time or even a range of date/time as responses.
They are many question types to use in a survey but there is no definite answer for which question type is best. They are many surveys that require open-ended questions, while others need no open-ended questions and consist largely of Likert scale questions. Regardless, knowing the range of question types at your disposal allows you to customise your survey to get the best design possible.