Getting the most out of a survey

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A survey is a great way to capture a large amount of data. Unfortunately, surveys are often not as effective as they could be because of poorly worded questions.  

Nine top tips for designing surveys

1 Think about your target audience

  • Consider which language to ask your questions in and whether you will need translation.
  • Use simple language and avoid jargon. 

2 Think about the order of your questions

  • Make sure the questions flow in a logical order.
  • Start with the simple and interesting questions.
  • Place the sensitive questions last. 

3 Do not ask too many questions

  • If you are not going to use the answer to a question, do not ask it. Do not ask questions if they are only for interest. 

4 Let respondents skip questions that do not apply to them

  • For example: ‘If you have not used the health centre, move to question 5.’ 

5 Avoid questions that are too demanding or take too long to answer

  • Do not ask too many open questions that require written responses, as this may put people off. 

6 Get someone to check through your questions

  • It is harder to spot your own mistakes. 

7 Test and then adjust your questionnaire

  • Allow enough time for testing your questionnaire with a smaller group. This may reveal problems, eg confusing questions. 

8 Allow time for training the people who will be carrying out the survey

  • Make sure the people collecting the data fully understand the questions and how to record the answers. 

9 Think about how you will collect and analyse the responses

  • Will you collect data using pen and paper, or digital methods? (See page 6.)
  • How will you store, analyse and use the information?


You could use this activity with a group. Cover the right-hand side of this activity box and discuss why the example survey questions are unhelpful. Then ask the group, ‘How could the questions be improved?’

Survey activity