Online Technology for Research & Insight

Research Blog 12 February 2016

Skills Briefing: tips on avoiding bias and ambiguity in scripting

There's a real art to writing questions for online surveys. You have to teach yourself to be objective and straightforward in your questions, and be aware that people can misinterpret your words. Our new briefing document in the Resources library points out several of the main pitfalls that you should be conscious of when scripting a survey. This is one of the most important skills that you can develop.

Make sure you don't ask leading or convoluted questions: you may be consciously (or unconsciously) biasing your respondents to answer in a given way – that's called a leading question. Or you may be asking such a complex and convoluted question that they find it too difficult to give a correct answer. Above all, make sure you are not combining several questions into one – separate questions out so that they are simple and non-misleading.

The best advice we can give, as our briefing paper spells out, is to share your survey once you have built it. Get colleagues or friends to work through it and report on anything that they find confusing or misleading. Testing a survey thoroughly before you start collecting data is an essential part of best practice.

Click here to access our: Skills Development Briefings Library.