Survey Question and Answer Types

So you've decided that you need a better understanding of the characteristics of people who visit your website, or of some other business-related question. Developing a focused and effective questionnaire will help you to efficiently and accurately pinpoint the information that will help you make more informed decisions.

Developing a questionnaire is as much an art as it is a science. And just as an artist has a variety of different colors to choose from in the palette, you have a variety of different question formats with which to create an accurate picture of your customers, clients and issues that are important to them.

The Dichotomous Question:

The dichotomous question is generally a "yes/no" question. An example of the dichotomous question is:

Have you ever purchased a product or service from our website?

  • Yes
  • No

If you want information only about product users, you may want to ask this type of question to "screen out" those who haven't purchased your products or services. Researchers use "screening" questions to make sure that only those people they are interested in participate in the survey.

You may also want to use yes/no questions to separate people or branch into groups of those who "have purchased" and those who "have not yet purchased" your products or services. Once separated, different questions can be asked of each of these groups.

You may want to ask the "have purchased" group how satisfied they are with your products and services, and you may want to ask the "have not purchased" group what the primary reasons are for not purchasing. In essence, your questionnaire branches to become two different sets of questions.

The Multiple Choice Questions

The multiple-choice question consists of three or more exhaustive, mutually exclusive categories. Multiple choice questions can ask for single or multiple answers. In the following example, we could ask the respondent to select exactly one answer from the 7 possible, exactly 3 of the 7, or as many as 3 of the 7 (1,2,or 3 answers can be selected).

Example: A multiple-choice question to find out how a person first heard about your website is:How did you first hear about our web site?

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Newspaper
  • Magazine
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Internet
  • Other: Please Specify

For this type of question it is important to consider including an "other" category because there may be other avenues by which the person first heard about your site that you might have overlooked.

Rank Order Scaling

Rank order scaling questions allow a certain set of brands or products to be ranked based upon a specific attribute or characteristic. Perhaps we know that Toyota, Honda, Mazda, and Ford are most likely to be purchased. You may request that the options be ranked based upon a particular attribute. Ties may or may not be allowed. If you allow ties, several options will have the same scores.

Example:Based upon what you have seen, heard, and experienced, please rank the following brands according to their reliability. Place a "1" next to the brand that is most reliable, a "2" next to the brand that is next most reliable, and so on. Remember, no two cars can have the same ranking

  • Honda
  • Toyota
  • Mazda
  • Ford

The Rating Scale

A rating scale question requires a person to rate a product or brand along a well-defined, evenly spaced continuum. Rating scales are often used to measure the direction and intensity of attitudes. The following is an example of a comparative rating scale question:

Which of the following categories best describes your last experience purchasing a product or service on our website? Would you say that your experience was:

  • Very pleasant
  • Somewhat pleasant
  • Neither pleasant nor unpleasant
  • Somewhat unpleasant
  • Very unpleasant