Guidelines to Write Attitudinal Questions in Surveys

Summary: Attitudinal questions are often used to understand how customers perceive brands and products. Here are key guidelines about how to write them.

2 minutes to read. By author Michaela Mora on May 13, 2011
Topics: Analysis Techniques, Brand Research, Market Research, Survey Design

Guidelines to Write Attitudinal Questions in Surveys

Attitudinal questions are common in surveys. They are often asked using rating scales.

The challenge is always to create statements that capture important elements of the attitudes we are trying to measure. Ideally, if the budget allows it, we should do qualitative research to gather insights into such elements and how people think and talk about them.

Even with qualitative data available, writing good attitudinal statements is not an easy task.

Here are some guidelines to facilitate the process of writing attitudinal questions in surveys.

Attitudinal Question Construction Guidelines

Be direct

Use direct and simple language. Avoid ambiguity.

Focus on the present

Write statements in the present tense and avoid referencing the past. Past tense relies on memory plus we will never know if the respondent is referring to yesterday, a week ago, or ten years ago.

No Technical Jargon

Avoid technical jargon and use words respondents can understand.

No Negation

Avoid negations and double-negations. They can lead to misinterpretations.

Keep the statements Short

Make the statements short to facilitate comprehension and minimize fatigue. In long sentences, people tend to skip parts to get to the end faster, which can lead to misunderstandings. Avoid using more than one sentence.

Attitudinal Question Framing Guidelines

Make It Relevant

Include only relevant items for the attitudes that are being measured. Adding irrelevant items or missing important ones is detrimental to the quality of the analysis.

Limit Information Amount

Avoid giving too much information about facts or elements that can be interpreted as tales.

Avoid Opinions

Create statements that express in-favor or against opinions related to what is being measured. Think, “I go to work every day” vs. “I love to work every day.” In other words, do not use items that would describe different points in a continuum (“Sometimes I like to work”), as this can be confusing. If you need to do that, it means you would be better off converting the item to a separate rating question with a specific scale.

Find A Balance

Balance the number of positive and negative statements. Don’t make them all positive or negatives, which can mislead respondents in one direction or the other.

One at a Time Please

Use only one logical phrase per statement. You will create confusion about what you need to evaluate if there is more than one logical phrase by the statement. 

Avoid Absolutes

Finally, avoid words like “always,” “everybody,” “nobody”. Gross generalizations are not credible. Respondents are likely to skip answering such statements or assume an artificial extreme position.