There’s nothing like the experience of working through a survey to learn the dos and don’ts of creating questions. I take every survey that crosses my path and save the questions I like, as well as those that stump or confuse me.

Here’s an example: I recently participated in a web-based workshop and quickly received a request to complete a survey about the experience.

Here’s the first question (out of 11) that popped up:

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What is the overall rating of the webinar?

[] 1   [] 2   [] 3   [] 4  [] 5

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Yikes! First, I had to get over the hump of the badly worded question but then it hit me, “I don’t know if “1” is good or bad. Where’s the legend for the scale?”

If participants are confused by your question, they will likely abandon the survey. But even if they pick an answer, the result is a lost opportunity: bad data that can’t be used.

The solution is obvious: add words to describe the scale (1 is bad and 5 is good). But it could be even better using descriptions rather than numbers. Here’s how I would ask the question:

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Today’s webinar was a valuable use of my time.

[] Strongly disagree   [] Disagree   [] Agree  [] Strongly disagree

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Tip: Ask a colleague to review your survey before hitting the send button and discuss her/his feedback. Perspective is everything. 

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