Monday, February 8, 2016

How to Develop a Good Survey Question

How to Develop a Good Survey Question Dozens of online tools make it easy to create a survey these days. These tools are great resources. But a good survey platform doesn't make it easy to create a good survey. A good survey depends on asking really good questions--particularly when you're asking about abstract or subjective experiences, skills, or priorities. For the past three years, Search Institute has been working with colleagues at West Virginia University and the University of Rochester to develop new measures of young people's civic development through a major project supported by the John Templeton Foundation titled the Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project ( In this effort, we spent a lot of time focused on developing and testing good questions. So, what makes a question good? 1. A good question is clear. This is harder than it sounds. A survey question may mean something completely different to an 11-year-old in Palo Alto, California, than to an 18-year-old in rural West Virginia or a 14-yearold in Malawi. The best questions are simple yet concrete, and use language that is accessible to all potential participants. We try to avoid questions that: are too long, are too vague, are worded in the opposite direction of the other questions, are too similar to other questions, are idiomatic to a particular language or culture, and include multiple ideas. To help ensure question clarity, we often conduct one-on-one interviews with youth or other survey respondents during the survey development process. We ask students to "think aloud" as they read and respond to possible survey items. This helps identify possible readability, comprehension, and interpretation issues. In the Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project, for example, interviews revealed that few middle school students knew that "e.g." was an abbreviation for "for example." Interviews have also shown us that middle school students struggle to define the word purpose; prompting us to make small but important revisions to survey questions. Read more about creating good questions and download a free measurement toolkit -

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