How to Ask Survey Questions

Three Methods:Building the SurveyAdministering the SurveyAnalyzing the Survey

Surveys provide feedback. The answers to survey questions help to form a consensus about products, services or ideas. Companies and organizations can use the information gathered from surveys to make business or political decisions that will affect their customers, constituents or stakeholders. In order for a survey to be helpful and accurate, it is important to ask the right questions. Ask survey questions that will elicit honest answers for the needed insight.

Method 1
Building the Survey

  1. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 1
    Understand your objective. Make sure you know why you are asking questions in the survey. Having a firm grasp of this will help you make better questions. Without knowing your objective, your questions may seem aimless.[1]
    • Try to answer the questions: who, what, where, when and why for yourself. This may help you define your objective.
    • The objective is different from the topic. It answers: “What do I want to find out?”
    • For example: your topic might be a specific service, such as "pizza delivery", and your objective might be to find out what impacts tipping behaviors the most.
  2. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 2
    Develop considerate questions. Make sure you research before you make your survey questions. This will help you to build insightful questions that are appropriate to your aims.[2] If your survey questions are not well thought out, it may be more difficult for people to take your survey seriously.[3]
    • Look online and at your local library to see if people have researched and studied your topic in the past.
    • Think about what your concerns might be if you were taking your survey.
    • Talk to others beforehand to help you get an outside perspective.
  3. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 3
    Ask clear questions. If you ask questions that are difficult to understand, your answers may be difficult to understand as well. Go to extra lengths to make sure your questions are easy to understand. Get help if you are unsure. Omit overly complicated language.
    • Cut out unnecessary words.
    • Shorten sentences.
    • Use basic vocabulary, avoiding overly technical language.[4]
    • Avoid leading questions, questions that prompt an answer, such as "Wouldn't you agree that slow pizza delivery is tragic?" These kinds of questions skew survey results.
  4. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 4
    Determine your audience. When you know to whom you're addressing your survey, it is easy to ask focused questions. What aspects of your topic will your audience be able to best respond to? Ask yourself relevant questions about your audience's concerns.
    • Research your demographic.
    • Avoid demographics that are least likely to give you good feedback. Adults without children are not good subjects for surveys on a child's enjoyment of a toy.
    • Avoid stereotyping.

Method 2
Administering the Survey

  1. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 5
    Make it accessible. Be sure to have enough copies, or a reliable means to distribute the survey. Be sure that people can find it. If you place the survey somewhere obscure, people are not likely to find it. If you do not have enough copies, you might not get as much data as you could.
    • Try distributing the survey electronically, in email or on a website.
    • Have more copies of your survey than you think you will need if using hard-copies.
    • Electronic data may be cheaper and easier to analyze than hard-copies.
  2. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 6
    Give people enough time. Don't rush them. If you want people to give you accurate information, allow them enough time to think about it. The last thing you want is to miss out on important information because you made haste resulting in waste. Research suggests time pressure undermines performance.[5]
  3. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 7
    Compensate participants where possible. People are busy. People are apathetic. If you want them to take your survey, enabling you to ask your questions to them, you may need to compensate them. This need may vary depending on the subject. A survey of snack food preferences is maybe easier to administer than a survey of sexual preferences.
    • Offer a small sum of money.
    • Provide food.
    • Give out a coupon, voucher, or gift certificate.[6]
  4. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 8
    Be courteous. There's nothing like a thank you. There's little as persuasive as a genuine please. Make sure you treat the people taking your survey with courtesy. This will increase the likelihood they will do the same for you.
  5. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 9
    Use a script. When asking survey questions on the phone or in person, it will help you to have a script. This way, you won't confuse your participants or get confused yourself. Reading from your script will ensure that you ask each person the same question. This will in turn help to maintain the consistency of your results.
    • Be sure to speak slowly and to enunciate.
    • Repeat the question.
  6. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 10
    Smile. Smiling will help people be more receptive to your questions. Even on the phone, a smile can be heard. Make sure you give your participants a smile, as this will help the experience be more pleasant for everyone.

Method 3
Analyzing the Survey

  1. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 11
    Collect the data. If you do not collect the data, you may as well have not administered the survey questions in the first place. Keep it all in a safe place. You do not want to lose it. In some situations, it may be mandatory that you keep the information confidential, secure, or anonymous.
  2. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 12
    Compare the information. Compile the information. Cross-examine it. Rearrange it. Think about from different angles. Conceive of new meanings and important implications for what the answers to your questions mean. In this stage you will [7]
    • Look online for analytics software.
    • Try to think outside the box.
  3. Image titled Ask Survey Questions Step 13
    Prepare the information for presentation. Make graphs. Use visual software. Write a paper, explaining your results. If the information you're working on is important, make sure to keep it safe—backup all files and make copies of important papers.
    • Remember this is for other people. These presentations should be easy and interesting to examine.
    • Try investing in professional software designed to arrange and display datasets.
    • Remember to synthesize new ideas; don't just summarize your dataset.[8]


  • Test the survey. Before using the survey on the large targeted audience for which it is intended, test it on a smaller group of people. This will help to ensure the questions are clear and easy to respond to.
  • Remember to keep expectations reasonable. The idea behind most surveys is to affirm or discredit assumptions that have already been made. Use the survey to gather supportive information. Do not expect to discover brand new trends or responses never before considered.
  • Consider the survey format when writing and organizing questions. Online surveys should be no more than 15 questions, and should not take any longer than 5 minutes to complete. This will keep survey takers from navigating away from the page. Follow the same guideline for telephone surveys to avoid being hung up on. Give respondents an incentive to finish the survey, such as a coupon or other discount.
  • Do not display all the survey questions at once. This will allow respondents to focus on 1 question at a time. Also, make sure the questions asked first will not bias the results of the following questions.


  • Limit multiple choice options to between 3 and 5. When asking a range question, use the numbers 1 to 5. If there are too many options to consider, a respondent may get confused or forget what the other options were.

Article Info

Categories: Research and Review