Designing questions can be difficult, we have some suggestions that can help.
Overall Best Practices for Developing Questions
At Polco/NRC, we spend time every day developing good questions. It can be harder than it looks! Below are some best practices to consider as you begin to write questions on Polco.
- Define objectives or goals for the question, to ensure that the information you collect will provide meaningful feedback or help inform some action on the part of the city or organization.
- A good question means the same thing to all respondents. Use clear and precise wording and sentence structure that everyone will understand. Avoid using jargon, acronyms that only a few respondents will understand and double negatives.
- If necessary, present any relevant background information in a neutral manner. Present enough information to ensure that respondents have a sufficient understanding of the topic, but not so much that some respondents won’t consider all of it. If respondents consider different amounts of background information, their responses will be based on different stimuli, which negates the benefits of a standardized survey.
- A good question is neutrally worded and does not influence respondents to select one response over another. Use balanced wording in the question and response options such that both or all possible opinions are neutrally represented. For example:
Do you favor relocating the fire station to 123 Main Street?
Do you favor or oppose relocating the fire station to 123 Main Street?
- Oppose (Note that a respondent might be in favor of relocating the fire station, but not to 123 Main Street. The “better yet” alternative is a more informative question if more than one relocation site is available or under consideration.)
BETTER YET (if relevant)
Which of the following statements best reflects your opinion about the proposed relocation of the fire station?
- I support relocating the fire station to 123 Main Street.
- I support relocating the fire station, but not to 123 Main Street.
- I do not support relocating the fire station.
Ask about one specific topic at a time so that a single response is not conflated with two or more possibly differing opinions.
Do you favor or oppose providing permit parking on residential side streets for employees and residents of the city?
(Respondents might favor permit parking for residents but not employees, for example.)
TWO SEPARATE QUESTIONS
Do you favor or oppose providing permit parking on residential side streets for residents?
Do you favor or oppose providing permit parking on residential side streets for employees working nearby?
Construct-specific questions are preferable to agree/disagree questions because they elicit more detailed information.
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The quality of free programming offered at the library is good.
How would you rate the quality of free programming offered at the library?
- Very good
These best practices will get you started, and don’t forget that we can also help new clients develop their questions. Please feel free to reach out to your Polco contact for additional information!