Types of Survey Questions: All You Need to Know

by Gabby Davis Dec 18,2023

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

Crafting effective surveys requires a nuanced understanding of the questions that drive insightful responses. In this comprehensive guide, we navigate the diverse landscape of survey question types, providing you with the essential knowledge to design surveys that uncover meaningful insights. Whether you’re a seasoned researcher or new to the world of surveys, this blog is your gateway to understanding the intricacies of question types.

From the expansiveness of open-ended questions, allowing respondents to share their perspectives freely, to the precision of closed-ended questions, offering structured options for quantitative analysis, we delve into the purpose and strategic applications of each. Uncover the art of framing questions that are clear, concise, and tailored to your specific goals, whether it’s market research, employee engagement, or cultural understanding.

Types of Survey Questions

  • Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended survey questions allow respondents to provide detailed, free-form responses rather than selecting from answer options such as multiple-choice questions. These questions are valuable for capturing in-depth insights, opinions, and personal experiences. For example, if you’re trying to conduct market research, you might ask customers: Can you describe the challenges you face when looking for products/services in this category?

Open-ended questions are valuable for uncovering detailed customer needs or employee viewpoints. They reveal areas for improvement that might have been overlooked.

Also read: Boost Your Employee Experience for a Better Customer Experience
  • Closed-Ended Questions

Closed-ended questions provide respondents with predefined options to choose from. These questions are useful for collecting quantitative data and can be easily analyzed. Closed-ended questions include nominal, rating scale, yes/no, and Likert scale types of questions.

Closed-ended questions are highly effective for initiating surveys because they’re quick and easy to answer. This aligns with the foot-in-the-door principle. Once respondents commit to the first question, they’re more likely to engage with subsequent open-ended questions.

Closed-ended responses are easy to quantify and serve as benchmarks. Rating scale questions, in particular, help gauge the sentiment of the target audience and track progress over time. So, for example, you can monitor employee happiness with rating scale questions and identify any negative trends. Here are some common types of closed-ended questions:

  • Rating Scale Questions

Respondents are asked to evaluate a topic in light of a predetermined dimension scale when using a rating scale. Typically, the question is accompanied by answer choices that can be scaled to any desired range (1 to 10, 0 to 100, etc.) For example, you can evaluate employee satisfaction with a particular policy by asking,

‘Please rate, on a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied you are with ABC changes in policy.’

  • Nominal Questions

Nominal questions offer respondents various options for answers without using numbers, and these choices are distinct from one another without any overlap. Essentially, they are like multiple-choice survey questions. They comprise three or more extensive, mutually exclusive answer choices. You can ask for a single response or multiple responses.

These questions produce data that is simple to analyze, intuitive, and flexible to employ. A good survey question example here would be asking a customer,

‘How did you hear about our website?’

So, if they heard about it from multiple sources, such as friends, websites, family, etc., they can click on multiple options.

  • Likert Scale 

The Likert scale is commonly a 5- or 7-tiered measurement that gauges a respondent’s level of agreement with a statement or the strength of their response to a particular matter.

This scale is structured symmetrically: the middle value (such as ‘3’ on a 5-point scale) represents a neutral standpoint, the lowest value (always ‘1’) signifies a strong positive or negative perspective, and the highest value (like ‘5’ on a 5-point scale) denotes the contrary strong view. An example would be asking your employees,

‘On a rating scale of 1 to 5, where 1 indicates ‘Very Dissatisfied’ and 5 indicates ‘Very Satisfied,’ please rate your level of satisfaction with our company’s current performance management system.’

  • Yes/No Questions

Dichotomous questions, or ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, offer a direct choice between two options. They’re ideal for quick segmentation of respondents. For instance, if you want to pinpoint obstacles to using your product, a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ survey on your pricing page can be followed by further inquiries from those who answered ‘no’.

These questions are effective icebreakers. The minimal effort required for a yes or no answer often encourages respondents to engage further, providing additional responses or contact information. For example, as a part of customer experience feedback, you might ask:

‘Did you find our interface easy to use?’

  • Matrix Questions

Matrix questions are structured in a table format. The questions are listed on the left side of the table, and the answer choices are displayed across the top. This format resembles a grid and is an extension of multiple-choice questions. With multipoint scales, respondents can pick only one option for each parameter, while multi-select allows them to choose multiple options.

  • Demographic Questions

Demographic questions collect details about a respondent’s background or income. When used effectively, these questions help you better understand your target customer audience. Demographics lets you group people based on characteristics and preferences, providing deeper insights into your data. Common demographic questions inquire about age, gender, and occupation.

What are Good Survey Questions?

Good survey questions are clear, concise, and relevant. They successfully gather precise and important data while giving respondents a comfortable experience. Well-crafted questions also consider the context of the survey, ensuring that the gathered information aligns with the overall objectives and provides meaningful insights for decision-making. 

Additionally, incorporating a mix of question types enhances the survey’s depth and captures a more comprehensive understanding of respondents’ perspectives.

Also read: The Ultimate Guide To Effective Employee Surveys

Tips to Frame Effective Survey Questions

  • The question must be simply worded and easy to understand. Avoid jargon, technical terms, or convoluted language that could confuse respondents.
  • The question should be directly related to your research objectives. Irrelevant questions can frustrate respondents and lead to inaccurate data.
  • Questions should be specific and focused, addressing one concept at a time. Vague or overly broad questions can result in ambiguous responses.
  • Questions should be phrased neutrally, avoiding bias that could sway respondents’ answers. Biased questions can lead to inaccurate or misleading data.
  • Use language suitable for your target audience’s age, education level, and cultural background.
  • Keep the wording and formatting of similar questions consistent to minimize confusion and ensure reliable data collection.
  • Before distributing the survey, test it with a small group of respondents to identify potential issues, ambiguities, or unclear wording.
  • For online surveys, use clear formatting, appropriate font size, and spacing to make the question visually appealing and easy to read.
  • Consider the sensitivity of certain topics. If asking personal or sensitive questions, ensure that respondents understand the purpose and importance of those questions and provide options for skipping if needed.
  • Avoid double-barreled questions. Don’t combine two separate questions into one. Each question should address a single issue to ensure clear responses.
  • Questions that suggest a preferred answer or assume certain facts can bias responses. Keep questions impartial to get genuine feedback.
  • Avoid using double negatives in questions, as they can confuse respondents. Opt for positive phrasing whenever possible.
  • Keep questions concise—just one or two lines at most. Also, be aware of survey fatigue. This happens when respondents lose interest due to repetitive questions or a lengthy survey.

Summing Up 

Effective business decision-making relies on pivotal surveys that encompass various question types, ranging from open-ended to closed-ended, such as rating scales and yes/no queries. To ensure accurate results, questions must be crafted with clarity, neutrality, and consistency in mind. Striking a balanced approach between closed and open questions is essential, and careful consideration of the survey length’s impact on participant engagement is vital during the drafting process. This thoughtful approach maximizes the survey’s effectiveness and enhances the quality of the insights gathered.  By following the essential dos and don’ts for survey creation, you can create insightful surveys that yield invaluable data for informed business strategies

free e10 Survey

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What purpose do surveys serve in an organization?

Surveys serve multiple purposes in an organization, from gathering employee feedback to gaining insight into customer satisfaction. They contribute to various aspects of understanding and improvements in a business. They are also a valuable tool for market research.

Q2.What makes a survey question effective?

Unbiased, clear, and simple wording makes survey questions effective. Surveys should match your organizational or departmental goals, be specific, and use language suitable for the audience. Avoid double-barreled questions and biases while maintaining consistency in formatting.

Q3. Is there an ideal length for surveys?

Yes, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, but shorter surveys with 5 to 10 questions tend to be more effective, considering people’s short attention spans and the need for engagement. 

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Gabby Davis

Gabby Davis is the Lead Trainer for the US Division of the Customer Experience Team. She develops and implements processes and collaterals related to the client onboarding experience and guides clients across all tiers through the initial implementation of Engagedly as well as Mentoring Complete. She is passionate about delivering stellar client experiences and ensuring high adoption rates of the Engagedly product through engaging and impactful training and onboarding.

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