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Polco News & Knowledge

How to Write Custom Survey Questions

-NRC Q & A-

National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) offers several template products with the option of additional custom questions and whole custom surveys. NRC Vice President Michelle Kobayashi explains some of the elements in creating strong custom questions for your survey.


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Questions must be topical

Include questions that are actively relevant to your community or the plans for your community’s future.

Must be a question you need feedback for

If you’ve already made a decision, don’t ask the question. Custom questions need to be created with the intention of using the resident opinions and priorities to help make the final decision.

Craft the questions without implying bias

Keep the questions dispassionate and clear so that residents feel comfortable being completely honest with their answers.

Vet the questions with colleagues and council

Gathering feedback from peer leaders and elected officials ensures that they’re the kind of questions you want to ask, that will lead to useable data for decision-making.

Phrasing questions for optimum results

Do not imply bias to the question in the introduction (ex. We think this is a great idea, what do you think?) This could put pressure on the residents to respond in the way you want them to, therefore leading to potentially dishonest answers.

Simplicity is best

Keep it survey simple! At NRC, we favor a 5-point scale to make the questions cognitively neutral.

It takes practice

Michelle Kobayashi is an expert in survey research, so much so that she co-authored a book on the skill of crafting citizen surveys with NRC President Tom Miller and Chief Operation Officer Shannon Hayden: Citizen Surveys for Local Government: A Comprehensive Guide to Making Them Matter

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