While market research takes many forms, perhaps the most common medium is surveys. But while anyone may think they can author a survey, they may not be using survey writing best practices. Put another way, how to craft an effective, unbiased survey is not something you learn overnight. 

This is where Victoria Stevens comes in. As the Director, Client Solutions at Prodege LLC, Victoria is a seasoned market research professional with more than 20 years of experience guiding client strategy using survey research. Victoria is also one of the masterminds behind our ongoing path to purchase research for a number of popular product categories.

We sat down with Victoria and leveraged her expertise to provide helpful tips when it comes to best practices for survey writing.

Survey Writing: A Blend of Science and Art

When we asked Victoria what her favorite part of authoring surveys is, she answers “I like how questionnaire writing requires both creativity and logic. I can get caught up in the details of skip logic and program instructions. And when the logical side of my brain gets tired I switch to imagining myself answering the survey as a different type of person, using the creative side of my brain. I never get bored with any questionnaire, regardless of the topic.”

Mindful to stick to a more rational approach, however, Victoria explains that she “[makes] sure every survey and every survey question returns on its investment,” expounding, “When I choose a topic, I make sure I anticipate how results can lead to actionable insights that help a company grow or solve a problem.”

Survey Writing Best Practices: the Rule of 20

Three additional tips from Victoria involve being mindful of the number 20 in a few key areas of survey design:

  • Online surveys should take the respondent no longer than 20 minutes to avoid respondent fatigue, which leads to poor quality responses.
  • Questions that provide the respondent a list of response options to choose from should have no more than 20 responses in the list. The more responses available to them, the fewer responses they will select and the less accurate your results will be.
  • Questions that ask respondents to rate a series of statements on a scale should have no more than 20 statements. If there are more than that, the question should be split into two pages.

In addition to practices one should follow when authoring surveys, one practice survey writers should absolutely avoid, Victoria stresses, is biasing survey responses. “A survey,” Victoria explains, “can be biased because it’s poorly written, of course, which means the question consciously or subconsciously leads the respondent to answer in a specific way. There are a lot of question design rules that are easy to follow for a novice writer. But bias first comes from thinking you know the answer before you write the question. So the most important no-no starts with wanting or needing a specific result from a survey. A survey author needs to approach the survey with openness and curiosity and no bias in their own mind.”

Prodege Director, Client Solutions, Victoria Stevens shares her survey writing best practices.
Victoria Stevens

Always Learning New Market Research Techniques

When asked what she likes most about working at Prodege, Victoria notes that both her Prodege colleagues, as well as Prodege members who complete our surveys are “engaged and enthusiastic.”

Victoria elaborates further on this, stating: “My colleagues at Prodege have the skill sets and tools to do any type of survey… Whether it’s an in-store mission with video, a virtual shelf test, a complicated skip/pipe pattern, or a tricky sample design, I know the team will be able to figure it out and do it well. This helps me learn too, because even after 20+ years in the industry, there is always more to learn and there is nothing more fulfilling than discovering new techniques from my team.”

Looking to offload your survey programming so that you can allocate your time elsewhere? Whether you’re looking to test a concept, a commercial, or virtually simulate an online shopping experience or in-store shelf environment, our Survey Demo site offers the ability to demo the wide range of question types we can program. Ready to get a survey launched? Let one of our experts help you get insights quickly.

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Rachel Kaye

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