Designing and using a questionnaire survey

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Last updated on November 20, 2018

The value of a survey questionnaire depends on the quality of the information you receive and this is influenced by the questions you ask.

There are some basic DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to designing and using a survey questionnaire.


  • Do pilot test your survey questions before you use them in the wider market:
    • do the people being surveyed understand the questions?
    • are their responses specific?
    • do they have the opportunity to expand on their answers?
  • Do design questions to obtain the essential information you need.
  • Do apply this test to each question you compile:
    • Can the answer be measured? Exercise care if the answers cannot be counted or categorised in some way.
  • Do keep your questions brief and clear.
  • Do keep your whole questionnaire as brief as possible, especially when you intend to conduct interviews by telephone.
  • Do ask all general questions (age group, gender, location) first to determine whether the respondent forms part of your sample group.
  • Do follow up Yes or No responses with a request for a reason, where appropriate.
  • Do ask simple questions that will encourage simple answers that you'll be able to interpret easily.  Complex questions can lead to long and complex answers.
  • Do ensure that the questions you use are likely to be easily understood by a wide range of people.
  • Do be honest about the intent of the questionnaire.
  • Do be considerate of each respondent's commitment of time.
  • Do treat the people you are interviewing in the way that you would like to be treated.


  • Don't ask questions that are likely to offend.
  • Don't answer the questions for your respondents.
  • Don't be alarmed or upset by any answers you receive, e.g. if a respondent says that he or she has never heard of your product or service or business name.
  • Don't argue about an answer to a question.
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