Survey Don'ts

Observing these simple quidelines will help ensure that your respondents understand your survey requirements and complete it as accurately and fully as possible.

Don't request unneeded personal information

  • If age, income and location aren't essential, skip this type of question. If you need these questions for statistical purposes, place them near the end.
  • Make sure that respondents know that their private information will not be shared.

Don't ask leading questions

  • Respondents shouldn't feel as though a specific question has a right or best response.
  • Review the wording of each question to confirm that you are not hoping or expecting to receive a certain answer.
  • The tone should be neutral.

Don't write questions with double negatives

  • Respondents should not have to read the question twice. Any question or statement with a double negative can lead to confusion. This type of distraction often leads to respondents quitting the survey.

Don't mix topics in a question

  • Make sure that your respondents know exactly what they are responding about. For example, do NOT ask: "Is it more difficult to teach small class sizes, or do you find multi-level classes more challenging?"

Don't include too many choices

  • 5 choices per closed-ended question is acceptable.
  • 3 choices may provide you with stronger data than 5 in some cases.
  • Make it clear at the outset whether or not respondents can choose more than one option.

Don't expect too much from your respondents

  • Don't ask them to recall information from long ago.
  • Don't ask them to remember small details or names.

Don't include two choices that look very similar

  • Respondents may choose the wrong choice accidentally.

Don't include too many neutral opinion choices

  • Questions that include neutral choices such as "don't know","undecided" or "no opinion" should be limited.
  • A middle option can be useful for factual questions, but is not helpful for research about attitudes and opinions.

Don't leave your respondents hanging

  • When you have had time to review the results of your survey, take the time to present and share them. This can be in a blog post, an email, a newsletter, an infographic, or a special note on your website. Don't forget to thank the respondents! And the next time someone asks you to respond to a survey, don't turn a blind eye. If you have valuable feedback or ideas to offer the researcher, take the time to respond.

Survey Do's

See also: Survey Analysis