5 Errors in surveys to avoid to collect authentic data

Have you ever spent hours creating a survey, only to be met with responses that make you scratch your head in confusion?


Unfortunately, many well-intentioned surveys end up buried in a pit of inaccurate or incomplete data.

It’s frustrating to invest time and effort into creating questions only to realize that the data collected doesn’t accurately reflect the reality you’re trying to understand.

Inaccuracies in survey data result in flawed conclusions, misinformed decisions, and wasted resources.

This article explores the top 5 common errors in surveys and provides actionable solutions to collect authentic data that drive informed decision-making.

What are errors in surveying?

Errors in surveying refer to the differences between the measured value and the actual value of a quantity being observed or measured. The errors in surveys can arise from various sources and can have significant implications on the accuracy and reliability of the results.

Here are the different types of survey errors:

  • Coverage errors: They occur when your survey fails to reach the intended population. When your list of potential respondents doesn’t encompass the entire target population, you miss out on crucial voices and get skewed results.
  • Sampling errors: Sampling errors in surveys arise when your chosen sample doesn’t perfectly represent the larger population. A small sample may not capture the diversity of opinions within the population, which may produce unreliable generalizations.
  • Non-response errors: Non-response errors pop up when respondents simply don’t complete your survey. Non-response rates greater than 30% can significantly impact data accuracy and are unreliable for making inferences.

Problems in surveying, such as errors of observation, coverage, or sampling, compromise the integrity of research outcomes. They result in misleading results and wasted resources.

Mistakes in surveying can undermine the validity of the findings, making it difficult to draw accurate conclusions or make informed decisions based on the data collected.

Corporate companies heavily rely on survey data to make informed business decisions.

Errors in surveying can undermine the integrity of these decisions, potentially causing financial losses, a decrease in customer satisfaction, and missed opportunities.

On that note, let’s take an in-depth look into how we can avoid some common survey mistakes when creating one.

5 common survey mistakes to avoid when creating a survey

Identifying and minimizing errors in surveys is essential for ensuring the reliability and validity of survey data.

Here are five common survey mistakes to avoid when creating a survey:

1. Lengthy surveys

When you make unnecessarily long surveys, your respondents have to scroll through an endless list of questions, and it feels like a chore. And who likes to do a chore? Exactly, nobody!

Before long, they’re just clicking through to reach the end of it – even if it means sacrificing accuracy and choosing random answers.

According to HubSpot, more than 60% of people abandon surveys exceeding 9 minutes.

The longer the survey, the higher the likelihood of respondents quitting it midway, leaving you with incomplete data and a headache.

A shorter, well-crafted survey is far more likely to yield valuable data than a lengthy one that respondents rush through. Identify the critical information you absolutely need and ruthlessly eliminate anything else.

Utilize skip logic, which tailors the survey based on previous answers, skipping irrelevant questions and keeping participants engaged.

You can make your surveys all the more engaging with visuals, interactive elements, or even a sprinkle of humor (considering it’s appropriate and caters to DEI principles).

A survey that feels more like a fun quiz than a tedious task is more likely to keep participants hooked till the end.

2. Question-related survey mistakes

Question-related survey mistakes encompass a variety of errors in how you create and present your questions.

Here are some key examples of such survey mistakes:

Poor question structure

Confusing wording, unclear intent, and grammatical errors and mistakes in surveying leave respondents feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and, ultimately, less likely to provide accurate answers.

That’s why ensure your questions are free of errors and typos. Even minor mistakes can create confusion and undermine your survey’s professionalism.

Avoid double-barreled questions that ask two things at once. This forces respondents to choose one answer when they might have different opinions on each aspect.

Here’s an example to illustrate the impact:

Poor question: “Do you find our customer service helpful and friendly?”

This question is double-barreled and ambiguous. What if someone finds it helpful but not overly friendly? Such errors in surveys result in unclear answers.

Improved question: “On a scale of 1 to 5, how helpful would you rate our customer service?”

“On a scale of 1 to 5, how friendly would you rate our customer service representatives?”

You gain more accurate and actionable insights when you break an ambiguous question into two clear questions.

Leading questions

Leading questions are phrased in a way that navigates respondents toward a particular answer. They often contain assumptions, positive or negative connotations, or even hidden agendas.

The leading tone of the question subtly nudges respondents towards a specific answer and influences how they respond. It skews your results and potentially biases your data.

Here’s an example of a leading question:

Leading question: “Since you’re a loyal customer, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of our exclusive offer, right?”

The question assumes the respondents’ loyalty and pressures them into a sale. While you can adopt a similar tone in your blogs, using it in surveys would be a bad idea.

Neutral question: “We’re offering a special discount to our valued customers. Are you interested in learning more?”

This open-ended version of the same question allows the respondents to make an informed decision themselves rather than due to a manipulative influence.

Too many open-ended questions

Open-ended questions give respondents more ownership over their answers, which means higher engagement and satisfaction. However, too many open-ended questions come with downsides.

Analyzing open-ended responses is time-consuming and requires qualitative research skills. Long surveys with many open-ended questions can overwhelm and discourage respondents.

Also, open-ended answers are subjective and difficult to quantify, making comparisons and statistical analysis challenging.

Here’s how you can turn an open-ended question into a close-ended one:

Open-ended: “What did you think of the product?”

Close-ended: “How satisfied were you with the product? (Select one that may apply)

  • Very satisfied
  • Somewhat satisfied
  • Neutral
  • Somewhat dissatisfied
  • Very dissatisfied

Limited answer options

Limited answer choices force respondents to squeeze their unique perspectives into pre-defined boxes. This can lead to:

  • Inaccurate data: People might choose the “closest” option, even if it doesn’t perfectly reflect their opinion.
  • Missed perspectives: Diverse viewpoints and subtle differences get lost in the limited options, hindering your understanding of the bigger picture.
  • Frustration and abandonment: Feeling unheard can be demotivating, leading respondents to ditch the survey altogether.

Offer a range of options, including neutral stances and varying degrees of intensity. Include an “Other” option with a text box that allows respondents to voice opinions that fall outside your initial choices.

3. No introduction

Skipping the introduction creates a void of information. Without context, people might not understand the purpose or relevance of your questions and might simply skip your survey, leaving you with limited data.

A professional and informative introduction instills trust and assures respondents their data is handled responsibly.

Captivate readers with a brief, engaging statement that explains the survey’s topic and significance. Explain what you’re trying to achieve and how the survey will contribute to your goals.

Be transparent with your introduction and avoid overly technical jargon. Explain how their participation will benefit them, the community, or a cause they care about.

Emphasize the impact their voice can make.

4. Unprofessional design

Design errors in surveys, like messy formatting and inconsistent branding, scream one thing: “We didn’t put much effort into this.” And guess what? Respondents can tell.

In a world where the average human attention span is less than that of a goldfish, an unappealing survey quickly becomes an abandoned survey.

Survey issues such as poor formatting, inconsistent fonts, or broken navigation raises red flags for participants. They might question the legitimacy of your research and hesitate to trust their valuable data with you.

To create surveys that are both informative and visually appealing:

  1. Use clear fonts, consistent spacing, and proper alignment
  1. Maintain a consistent visual identity that reflects your organization
  1. Avoid clutter and visual overload
  1. Use white space effectively to keep the elements balanced

5. No incentive to participate

Participating in a survey takes time and effort. Offering incentives acknowledges this and shows respondents that their contribution is valued. It’s like saying, “Thank you for your time and insights. Here’s a little something in return.”

This simple gesture can significantly increase participation rates and provide a larger and more representative sample for your research. The key is to offer incentives that are relevant and appealing to your target audience.

It’s important to remember that your incentives shouldn’t feel like bribes. They should align with your target audience and research goals.

Not everyone is motivated by the same things. Consider offering a variety of incentive options to cater to different preferences.

How not to make a mistake when creating a survey?

Errors in surveys compromise data integrity. Ensuring the accuracy and reliability of survey data is paramount for making informed decisions and driving meaningful outcomes.

A well-crafted, error-free survey not only yields valuable insights but also demonstrates respect for respondents’ time and effort.

To avoid making survey mistakes and optimize data collection, consider leveraging tools like Formaloo, a free online survey builder. It offers intuitive features to create engaging surveys and maximize respondent participation.

Sign up for free today and start making engaging surveys.

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5 Errors in surveys to avoid to collect authentic data