American Anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston once said “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose”.

This makes a lot of sense because if you don’t have a purpose or know what you’re trying to find out, you won’t find out anything at all. If you’re planning on conducting some online research, you’ll want to make sure your questions give you the answers you need. There are a number of do’s and don’ts when it comes to drafting your research questions and here are some of the ones we think are the most helpful:


  • Provide a range of answer options that cover all possible responses to a question. If you don’t provide an exhaustive list of options, you run the risk of collecting data which is skewed.
  • Avoid bias by ensuring your questions aren’t leading your audience to answer in a certain way and provide null options where appropriate. Whilst questions like this might gain you the ‘ideal’ stat, this is not good practice.
  • Write questions which will engage your respondents. If your audience is interested in the topic, you’re more likely to get meaningful answers from them. Using a variety of question styles will help keep participants motivated as well.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your respondent. If you couldn’t, or equally wouldn’t answer one of your questions, you shouldn’t expect them to.
  • Bear in mind that there are certain rules and regulations that any good research provider will apply to questionnaires. Adhering to the AAPOR guidelines will not only protect you both but also ensure robust data that will stand up to scrutiny, giving you confidence in your stats.


  • Don’t overcomplicate things. Make sure the language you use is appropriate for the audience. If you’re polling business owners, it may be suitable to include typical business lingo. If you’re looking to get opinions from children of a certain age, have a think about the complexity of the words you use and make sure they can comprehend the meaning of the questions.
  • Don’t assume everyone does or likes the things that you do. It is easy to write a questionnaire about things that are relevant to yourself or the people around you, but 80 year old widower Bob, who lives on his own is unlikely to be able to tell you about his ‘Typical family meal times’.
  • Don’t merge questions together. It can be tempting to try and squeeze as many questions as possible into one. For example, the question ‘If you or your partner have ever been hospitalized, have either of you had surgery in the last 5 years?’ with ‘Yes/No’ answer options is actually asking multiple questions in one and therefore prevents you from getting any meaningful data as you don’t know who or what the answer is referring to.
  • Don’t ask too many questions. There is a fine balance between not enough and too many when it comes to the number of questions you should ask. If you don’t ask enough, you may miss some critical insight. But ask too many and you risk losing participant interest and increasing drop off rates.

Question type

There are a variety of question types you may wish to consider when writing your survey. Some of the most useful are below:

Screening questions are used at the start of your survey to make sure you target only the most applicable people for your research. Screening questions need to be robust to eliminate ‘yes people’ who may say they do something just to get into the survey. A simple Yes/No screener will not suffice and it’s important to make them as complex as you can in order to keep the quality of your data high.

Single choice questions – Questions which require exactly one answer only.

Multi-select questions – Questions which require at least one answer but participants can select as many as are applicable.

Grid questions – Grid questions allow you to get data about more than one component at a time.

Free text or open end questions – Free text questions allow you to explore the qualitative aspects of your research. It gives the respondent the opportunity to type in their answers and / or explain an answer in more detail. These questions can also be a great tool to discover a personal anecdote which a respondent might have that relates to the research.

Rating scales – Rating scales can help you find out the extent to which a person feels about a statement, product or experience.

Demographic questions – You can ask questions to find out more about the demographics of your respondents. This data can also be used to breakdown the results of your survey.

Using your data

Thinking about the end result at the start of the project will help you get the most out of your data. Have a think about the breakdowns you might want to analyse before you start your survey, as it’s likely you won’t be able to dig out this information once the research is complete. This can be anything from participant annual income to hair color.

The most important aspect of your research is the outcome. Ensuring that your results output is easy to interpret and unambiguous should be a priority. If you can’t understand the data in front of you, how will you be able to interpret and analyse it?

OnePoll supply stats in an easy to read Excel workbook presenting the data tables for each question, including percentage and count. The results are tabulated by demographic breakdown and, as standard, you will receive top line, age, gender and regional stats.

We also offer an executive summary service. The exec summary will provide you with statistical highlights and points of interest from your research which can help make interpreting your stats even easier.

If you want to make your research findings even more accessible to your audience, you may wish to consider an infographic to bring your survey findings to life.