The order of your questions

Question order can have a big influence on your participants' response behavior - here is what you should know before.

When constructing a study, you’ll need to decide on an order for your questions. You might think this doesn’t matter too much, but question order can make quite a difference to how your participants respond.

You should start with general questions that are easy to answer and not too sensitive or overly personal. There is a debate about whether sensitive questions should go near the start or nearer to the end of your questionnaire. On the one hand, asking sensitive questions early allows participants to drop out of the study quickly if they feel uncomfortable answering them. On the other hand, asking sensitive questions late means you can use the preceding questions to get the participant into the right mindset to answer more sensitive questions. 

It is also preferable to keep questions about the same topic or area together. If you have different response formats, it might make sense to group your questions by both response format and topic area. Indicate the topic area by headings and separate the different groups of questions by page breaks. 

Again, a pilot test can be very helpful to detect if the order that you have chosen is introducing any kind of confusion or bias to the data you obtain.

If you are trying to avoid biases introduced by the order of the questions, or if you simply want to test your questions, it may be a good idea to randomize the questions, or blocks of questions. 


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