Market Research Basics: Creating Effective Screeners For Your Survey

When doing market research, you need participants who meet your target demographic. If you’re conducting a survey to obtain the information you need, you should set up a screener, also known as screening questions.

Selecting Fit Participants

A screener is composed of a series of questions that determine who is (and isn’t) a perfect fit for your study. Participants who pass the screener will move on to complete the whole survey. Respondents who fail the screening requirements will no longer be eligible to participate in the study. They’ll typically receive a “thank you” message and an instruction to leave the survey.

When you’re using an online survey program, make sure it has screening questions at the beginning of the questionnaire.

And keep these eight best practices in mind when formulating your screeners:

01. Keep Your Screening Questions Short and to the Point

Screeners should ideally contain a few questions. Letting respondents answer too many screening questions could annoy or frustrate them and cause them to drop out of the survey.

Apart from the quantity of the questions, consider the conciseness of each question. If respondents are taking more than a few minutes to get through the screener, think about how you’re creating the questions. Then, make the necessary adjustments.

02. Be Clear with Your Screeners

Clarity is power when creating screeners. Avoid formulating screening questions that could confuse participants and prevent them from answering truthfully. If you have to include abbreviations and acronyms, spell them out and provide a brief explanation for better understanding.

03. Refrain from Using Yes-or-No Questions

Although constructing a survey screening that uses the conventional “yes or no” format is easy and tempting, this produces bias. Ineligible respondents, for instance, may pick an answer that enables them to move forward and complete the survey. The best practice, therefore, is to formulate multiple choice questions where the desired responses are not clear or obvious.

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Let’s say you’re conducting a tech gadget survey wherein study participants have to be owners of a laptop cooling device or equipment. Instead of writing, “Do you own a laptop cooling pad?” go with “Please tick off the laptop accessories you currently own.” Then, list five to ten answer choices, including the cooling pad.

04. Avoid Leading Questions

people discussing board

These questions encourage participants to answer in a specific manner. Refrain from constructing leading questions because they prevent you from obtaining accurate and actionable data. Also, respondents may see these questions as manipulative and refuse to continue with the survey.

If you’re conducting a survey on video streaming services, for instance, don’t write, “On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you dislike Amazon Prime?” Instead, write, “On a scale of 1 to 5, how do you feel about Amazon Prime?”

05. Be Specific with Frequency-Related Questions

Frequency answer choices, such as sometimes, occasionally and often, can be subjective and confusing. Some respondents, for instance, may define the term “often” as every day. Others may see the term as every other day.

When defining frequencies, be specific. A good example is this question: “How frequently do you floss your teeth?” The answer choices can be after every meal, once a day, every other day, every week, a few times a month and never.

06. Reorder Your Answers to Your Screeners

Shuffling the order of answers minimizes survey bias. Every time someone opens up the survey, a randomizer reorders the screening questions. This is useful, especially if you don’t want participants to check out each others’ responses.

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07. Start Broad and Then Make Your Questions More Specific

When you’re disseminating a survey, you’re not supposed to make any kind of assumption about the respondent. Treat screeners as a funnel that narrows hundreds or thousands of respondents down to your intended demographic.

If you’re conducting a fruit juice survey, start with the question, “Which of these beverages have you consumed in the last four weeks?” When the participant selects fruit juice, the survey should proceed to ask a more specific question like, “Which of the following fruit juices have you consumed in the last month?”

08. Include “Other” in the Answer Choices

Give survey takers the option to pick “other” as an answer option. If you’re going to include this, make sure that it comes with the instruction “Please specify.” This will generate better data for your market research study and prevent respondents from picking inaccurate options for the sake of moving on to the next part of the questionnaire.

When you design screening questions properly, you limit the amount of unusable data you receive and prevent ineligible respondents from messing with the results. Follow these eight best practices and watch for improvements.

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