The Importance of Word Choice when Developing Questions

imagesAKQ1ZA01Clarity is key when creating open ended (comment) questions.  It is very important to use words that will not be misinterpreted by the person reading the question. Misinterpreting even one word can change an individual’s entire understanding of the question. In developing surveys both through school and in my professional career, I have noticed a few common errors that can be avoided with better word choice.  The first problem being that an individual may not understand a word in the question, and therefore the survey taker may try to draw meaning from the rest of the sentence.  This can lead to survey takers answering in a way other than what was intended, therefore skewing the results of that particular item.

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Custom Items or Standard Items?

Answers Marked on a TestMost, if not all, survey companies normally have a list of questions that clients can pick items from.  Also, survey companies allow clients to create their own items that are more specific to their organization.  Which questions should organizations try to use more of, standard items or custom ones?

There is an initial draw to use custom items because it allows organizations to get as specific as they want.  Every business is unique in some way, so custom items can be catered to these differences.  One drawback to custom items is there is no standard to measure the scores against (unless an organization surveys numerous times and continues to use the same custom items, but even then they only can measure a company standard not an industry standard).  Another drawback is that custom items have not been tested for clarity as much as standard items.  The standard items are used time and time again, and have normally eliminated any ambiguity in the questions.

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