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Qualtrics tips: Making your surveys easy to complete

Thursday, April 24, 2014
Vic Matta and Mark Riley  

Example of a Qualtrics multiple choice answerQualtrics surveys are a great way to obtain feedback from your constituents, but getting respondents to complete your survey can be a challenge. People are strapped for time and will abandon a survey quickly if they feel their time is not being used wisely.

5 ways to improve your survey results

  1. Keep it short and simple - Write at an 8th grade level. Use simple sentences with simple, clear choices for answers.
  2. Avoid biased, leading questions - Write and order your questions with an eye on neutrality. If order is not important, Qualtrics can randomize the question order for you. Avoid leading questions that will steer the respondent toward a particular answer.
  3. Clear choices, made quickly - Build questions and answers that are self-contained and simple. Do not expect your respondent to remember details from earlier in the survey.
  4. No "double-barreled" questions - Avoid combining two concepts in a single question: "What is the fastest and most economical Internet service?" is better asked as two questions: one about speed and one about value.
  5. Have a purpose for every question - If you don't know what you will do with the data from a particular question, don't include it.

More Qualtrics tips

  • Be specific - General questions invite multiple interpretations. Stick to specifics where possible. If you must ask a general question, preface it with specific questions on the same topic to help define expectations.
  • Avoid negative wording - Most question formats include at least one negative answer (Disagree, No, etc.). If you phrase a question negatively, respondents will be confused by the double-negative, where "no" actually means "yes." 
  • Open ended questions - Free responses can capture qualitative/descriptive information and allow your respondents to provide context or justification for answers to closed questions. They also can be useful when you don't have enough data to create appropriate categories for a closed question.
  • Keep questions relevant with skip logic - Qualtrics includes the ability to skip or include questions based on a respondent's previous answers. For example, you could ask participants if they are faculty or staff, then display research/teaching questions only for those who answered "faculty."
  • Test before you send - Preview your survey with at least a few volunteers who were not involved in creating that survey. This lets you confirm that skip logic and required questions are working properly, and it gives you a chance to spot confusing language and hidden biases. You will be surprised how much context plays a role in they way a question is answered. 


Converse, J.M. and Presser, S. 1986, Survey Questions: Handcrafting the Standard Questionnaire, Sage Publications.

Writing effective questions, Qualtrics support site

Related Links

Qualtrics home page 
Create the perfect online survey