Online survey builders have made it possible for anyone to design and distribute a questionnaire. As a result of this, more people with little experience are now designing questionnaires, leading to several mistakes in the practice

In this article, we’ll be discussing 10 questioning mistakes to avoid when designing surveys and questionnaires.

What is a Poorly Designed Questionnaire?

A poorly crafted questionnaire is one that lacks purpose and clear context; it is mostly made of unrelated questions strung together by the researcher.

Poor designed questionnaires also make use of biased language which subtly influence the respondents. Under these conditions, the survey will be full of ambiguous and complex questions that can prevent the respondents from responding objectively. 

Some poorly designed questionnaires may even request for multiple answers that lack mutually exclusive options. This usually confuses the respondents, thereby making it difficult for survey data to be structured and processed accurately. 

With all these downsides to poorly designed questionnaires, you should ask yourself if you understand the importance of quality questions, and if you have the expertise to design a detailed questionnaire 

Use For Free: Online Questionnaire Template

Let us consider the importance of good quality questions in the design of a questionnaire.

Importance of Quality Questions in a Questionnaire Design

Designing a perfect questionnaire is essential to your research because, without the right questions, you may be unable to measure or determine valid truths about your research subject.

Here is why it is important to craft quality questions in a questionnaire.  

  1. Quality questions remove all possible influences questions may have on the answer.
  2. It ensures that your questionnaire is reliable and accurate.
  3. It shows, in clear context, the purpose of your survey. Oftentimes, survey questions seem to omit the important aspects of the survey, and this makes the questionnaire fail in asking the important questions that will provide insight into the research topic.
  4. It makes the questions easy to understand
  5. Quality questions take the educational level of respondents into consideration

Impact of Faulty Questions on Questionnaire Results

  • Faulty questions will lead to low-quality responses
  • Faulty questions invalidate a questionnaire, thereby leading to a waste of time and resources.
  • Faulty questions cannot capture the actual thoughts or opinions of the respondents. And when this happens, respondents provide confounding answers that will lead to biased questionnaire results.
  • Problematic questions hurt the credibility of the researcher and his/her conclusions.
  • It leaves the actual problem or hypothesis unsolved because no tangible results are offered

Explore These: 33 Social Media Survey Questionnaires [Free to use]

Common Mistakes in Constructing Questionnaires (Examples)

1. Leading questions

Depending on how questions are structured, they can ‘lead’ or influence the respondents to a specific response. In other words, leading questions suggest the respondent answer in line with the suggestion of the survey designer, be it intended or not.

This is a common mistake that happens when someone with in-depth knowledge of the project or research sets the survey questions. In many cases, it is unintentional.

For example; Our company was recently recognized for its excellence in employee welfare. As an employee, how satisfied are you working with us? 

(1- very dissatisfied to 5- very satisfied].

Alternative wording:  As an employee, please rate your level of work satisfaction with our company 

(1- very dissatisfied to 5- very satisfied).

Design mistake: The questions are crafted in a way that’ll lead the reader to bend to one corner of the argument

Hint: Make use of neutral words while creating your survey questions.

Read More – Leading Questions: Definition, Types, and Examples

2. Overlapping, Incomplete or Unclear Response Choices

You can ask the respondents a question without providing full coverage of possible answers when attention is not paid to details, or when your responses are incomplete or overlapping.

For example: How long have you been working in this department? 

(1-2 years,  2-5 years, 5 years or more).

Alternative wording: How long have you been working in this department?

(Less than 1 year, 1-2 years,  2-5 years, 5 years or more).

3. Too many open-ended questions

There is a high tendency that you will discover new things when writing a survey, and these new discoveries may confuse you on which answer options to offer your respondents.

This confusion might lead you to offer open-ended questions. What this means is that after each question, you may include a ‘please explain’. When you have two or three open-ended questions, there may be no problem, but it becomes a turn-off if there are more. This could lead to a lot of incomplete data. Better to use open-ended questions wisely.  

4. Not Considering the Respondent Experience

When designing survey questions, It is now common for the designer to assume the respondents know more than they do or have a memory as sound as that of the survey designer on the survey topic. One of the characteristics of a good survey is that it should not rely on prior knowledge, or leave room for ambiguity.

For example: Please look at our company’s new logo. [insert the image of the new logo]. To what level do you agree that our new logo is an improvement compared to our present logo? 

(1- strongly disagree to 5- strongly agree)

Alternative wording: Please look at our company’s new logo  [insert the image of the new logo] and compare it to our current logo [insert the image of the current logo]. Please rate the new logo against the current logo.

5. Using complicated words and acronyms

When designing your survey questions, put in mind those taking your survey. Consider the cultural differences and use uncomplicated language in designing your questions. Avoid acronyms and technical terms that may confuse your respondents. If you must use an uncommon concept, provide definitions to simplify them.

The quality of your questions is still under doubt if you are uncertain that almost anybody can understand and answer your questions easily. 

For example: Do you own one or more tablet PCs?

(Agree, disagree, prefer not to say)

Alternative wording: Do you own one or more tablet personal computers? (e.g. iPad, Android tablet)

(Agree, disagree, prefer not to say)

Generally, you should put effort into using easily understandable languages. That is easily understood even if some certain sample groups may have knowledge of the technical terms.

Get Start With: 33+ Personal Attributes Questionnaires

6. Using the double negation

Wording survey questions in a negative tone sometimes make the respondents have double-takes when responding to the questions. The double negation questions mostly use the word ‘not’ in the question, then proceed to ask the respondents to agree or disagree with the statement. 

For example: Aren’t you interested in how unsafe a cesarean section is?

Do you agree or disagree that arts courses and artists are not recognized as essential workers in helping to strengthen the bond in communities? (Agree/ Disagree/ Don’t know)

Alternative wording: Do you think that artists and art courses are recognized as essential parts in building the bond or strengthening the communities?  

(Yes/ No/ Don’t know)

When crafting your survey questions, wording them in positive languages reduces the source of error or bias you have to look out for. Also, they remove ambiguity and confusion. The two examples cited above will definitely confuse your respondents.

7. Including unnecessary questions

You should be sure you are asking the necessary questions that relate to your research.

For example, “What came to your mind when you woke up today?” 

“Are you wearing a sweatshirt or polo at the moment?”

Ask yourself if these questions are necessary. Also, how do you input answer choices for this type of question? Remember that you may only be granted 10 or 15 minutes of the respondents’ time. If they come across questions such as above, they may lose interest in completing your questionnaire. So craft and ask only the questions that are relevant to your project. 

8. Asking sensitive questions

It is quite a common practice for survey designers to include every possible question that comes to their head and try to find a reason to back up, including the question later.  

For example, asking questions such as What is your sexual orientation? (Heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, gay, or prefer not to say).

Is your current gender the same as the gender you were born with? 

(Yes, no, prefer not to say)

Do you make up to $100 per month?

(Yes, no, prefer not to say)

The fact is sexual orientation and income level are most likely irrelevant to the survey and the information that may be of interest to the research topic. Except, of course, the research is being conducted to prepare for a festival, income analysis, or people who have had a transition.

It may be easy to fill your questionnaire with sensitive questions that relate to sexuality or money. You may totally jeopardize your research and lose credibility. 

9. Asking two questions in one

When a survey designer does not see two questions as mutually exclusive opinions, they may sweep the two questions under one umbrella. When questions are asked in this manner, the respondents may be left confused. Especially if they have a different opinion and they may not know how best to answer the question.

For example: How satisfied are you with the colors and design of our new company’s logo? 

(1- very unsatisfied–5- very satisfied)

Alternative wording: How satisfied are you with the colors of our new company’s logo: 

(1- very unsatisfied- 5- very satisfied). How satisfied are you with the design of our new company’s logo?  

(1- very unsatisfied- 5- very satisfied).

10. Asking a question that requires interpretation

If your questions are designed to carry out quantitative research, then you must be extra careful.

For example: “Have you been to church recently?”

(Yes, no, prefer not to say)

The “recently” in that question requires interpretation. This is because your objective in quantitative research will be to measure facts and “recently” could be interpreted as within 6 months or 3 months. 

Alternative wording: Have you been to church in the last two months?

(Yes, no, prefer not to say)


If you desire to achieve the most from your survey, you must be intentional about starting with the right type of questions. The design of your survey doesn’t exactly matter, neither does the platform you employ in sharing your survey. The important thing is to avoid bad or poor survey questions as they will ruin your data collection process. 

Surveys and data gathering processes require a lot of effort and this is why you must ensure you get the questions right at the first trial. Know the difference between poor survey questions and good survey questions, as this will help you achieve an effective and efficient data collection process. 


  • busayo.longe
  • on 8 min read


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