A checklist to guide the wording of questions in surveys

A key element in the success or failure of surveys is the way that questions are worded. De Vaus (2002) provides a handy checklist that can help mitigate poorly pitched questions.

The following checklist to guide the wording of questions may be useful :

  • Is the language simple?
  • Can the question be shortened?
  • Is the question double-barrelled?
  • Is the question leading?
  • Is the question negative?
  • Is the respondent likely to have the necessary knowledge?
  • Will the words have the same meaning to everyone?
  • Is there a prestige bias?
  • Is the question ambiguous?
  • Is the question too precise?
  • Is the frame of reference for the question sufficiently clear?
  • Does the question artificially create opinions?
  • Is personal or impersonal wording preferable?
  • Is the question wording unnecessarily detailed or objectionable?
  • Does the question have dangling alternatives?
  • Does the question contain gratuitous qualifiers?
  • Is the question a ‘dead giveaway’?

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