How to Write Survey Questions

Writing survey questions is often one step that many survey creators struggle with. There are so many aspects to consider that it can get overwhelming: Where do I start? How many questions should I ask? How do I create an unbiased survey? Who is this survey intended for?

how to write survey questionsWith a clear plan and some guidance, the survey creation task doesn’t have to be as daunting. Spending time crafting survey questions in the beginning will help you ask the right questions to get the information that you need. So, we present to you a step-by-step guide for crafting the perfect survey!

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Step 1 – Specify the research problem

Narrow in on defining the purpose of your research study into specific questions that can be later translated into a survey. Start by completing this sentence:

The purpose of this research will be to ______ (understand, describe, develop, discover) the _______ (central issue of concern) for ______ (the participants)

Step 2 – Use brainstorming tools like Evernote and Trello

Evernote is one of the best tools available for brainstorming ideas. Whether you want to capture a photo of your handwritten notes, or email an idea to your Evernote account, this tool will help immensely with the brainstorming process. Trello is more of a project management tool and can be used to transform ideas from Evernote into manageable tasks. The best thing about Trello is that it lets you invite other members of your team to work on a collaborated project together.

Step 3 – Craft questions from brainstormed notes

Qualitative vs. quantitative questions

Depending on your research needs, a survey is typically comprised of either qualitative, quantitative, or both question types. Depending on which research method a survey requires will be the basis for the type of wording you are going to use in your survey.

What’s the difference between qualitative and quantitative questions?

Qualitative (open-ended) questions

A qualitative question gives respondents free reign to answer and interpret a question in as many ways possible. This is a particularly helpful question type when the researcher is in the beginning stage of the research process or has little knowledge about the root problem of the research as it gives no bias to the answers. A general theme may emerge when interpreting the results. Here is an example of a qualitative question in a patient assessment survey:
qualitative survey questions
As you can see, this question can be answered in multiple ways, which presents a challenge for vague answers or questions being misinterpreted by the respondent. The key is to be specific when writing survey questions: the more specific the better.

Quantitative (closed-ended) questions

A quantitative question requires a specific response. This question type should be used when the researcher is attempting to prove or disprove a hypothesis. Here is an example of a qualitative question in a patient assessment survey:
quantitative survey questions

Step 4 – Structure your survey with question types

A survey is generally comprised of 2 types of questions: Central or sub-questions.

Central questions

Begin your survey with central questions that gathers more general information about the topic you plan to explore. The purpose of central questions is to open-up the research for participants to provide their perspectives and not narrow the study to your perspective. Use questions that contain “how” or “what” rather than “why”.


Questions should become more specific as a survey unfolds as a way to gather a specific insight into your issue of concern. Use action verbs, such as generate, discover, understand, describe, or explore instead of words such as effect, relate, compare, determine, cause, or influence.

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Step 5 – Review question wording

After you have created your survey, double-check the question wording to reduce the presence of biased, leading, double-barreled, or loaded questions. When writing survey questions, use the language of the respondent to ensure that it is understood. The main idea here is to keep survey questions simple and to the point, i.e. explain a question in as few words as possible.

And there you have it! Do you have any tips for writing effective survey questions? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Want to learn more about survey creation?

Check out these related posts:
Using Google Search Effectively for Survey Question Research
Web-Based (Online) vs. Mobile (Offline) Surveys
How to Capture Leads Using QuickTapSurvey & Salesforce

Mass Communication Theory – Writing Good Qualitative Research Questions

David Wogan
David Wogan was an Online Marketing Specialist at QuickTapSurvey in 2014. Have a story idea? Email us at