Using screening questions within a survey has become standard practice across the market research industry. However, some researchers may be unaware of how to properly implement these questions in a survey or fully understand the impact they can have on survey data.
What Are Screening Questions?
Screening questions are the first questions that a respondent is exposed to in a survey. These questions determine whether respondents have the appropriate demographic or psychographic criteria that would make them eligible to participate in a research study. Respondents that are marked ineligible by these questions are to be terminated (ejected) from the survey. When applied correctly, screening questions will allow researchers to collect survey data from respondents who will provide helpful feedback that aligns with the study’s research objectives.
Five Tips to Improve Your Screening Questions
1. Refrain from giving away the topic of your survey away too soon:
It is important to avoid giving away too much information at the very beginning of your survey as it will devalue the nature of the screening process. The key purpose of screening questions is to cleverly find the right candidates who would be perfectly qualified to partake in your research study. You will also want to randomize your answer selections to ensure it is not obvious which answer will move the respondent on to the next question. Let’s say your research must include respondents that enjoy reading during their downtime.
Rather than asking a screening question like this:
… try restructuring to something like this:
The same concept should apply to your survey title that is visible to respondents. Rather than titling your survey “Literature Lovers,” you might want to try something more simple and unspecific, like “Hobbies & Interests”. Through this screening method, you’ll be able to pull in a wide audience and carefully sift out the true literature hobbyists. Moreover, you’ll gain more information about your participant's additional interests and potentially uncover deeper correlations between the data.
2. Consider Feasibility
Looking for 400 archaeologists that live in Homer, Alaska? That’s a niche audience and will be tough to recruit for an online survey! While it’s wonderful to have a distinct audience in mind for your research, considering the feasibility of your recruit is quite significant. It is crucial to understand what is obtainable in both quantitative and qualitative research, flexibility around a portion of the survey criteria in case the audience is too niche to maximize your survey response rates.
3. Don’t cast the net too wide
Similarly, you’ll want to make sure that your recruit has focus. If your criteria is too broad you might miss out on valuable insights that you’re trying to learn from the data you’ve collected. For instance, if you’re conducting a study to test a new mobile application you may want to screen out people that do not own a smartphone. Specifying the audience that best fits your research needs will provide a refined pool of respondents that you won’t have to sift through or waste budget by having to remove some respondents from the dataset later.
4. Be sure to proofread
Missteps are bound to happen at some point or another, it is not uncommon for spelling and grammatical errors to go overlooked due to urgency. It is vital to keep in mind that your screener is the first touchpoint you have with potential respondents. Spelling or grammar errors can lead to confusion if they interrupt the clarity of the question being asked. It is highly recommended to take a few minutes to thoroughly review your screening questions prior to fielding. Check out our 5 Ways to Pre-Flight Your Survey to make sure you are ready for respondents.
5. Avoiding “Yes or No” questions
Screening questions provide the opportunity to get to know the respondents that might become part of your research journey. When possible, take advantage of the chance to learn as much as you can about your participants. Enhancing your data by adding interesting questions can provide perceptions that you may have originally disregarded.
Imagine you need to speak to pet owners that actively purchase pet supplies online. Simple yes or no screeners might look something like this:
Consequently, asking screening questions in this format misses an opportunity to gain some valuable consumer insights! It is good to note that a screening question doesn’t need to be long to be insightful.
Rather than including yes or no answer choices, you could revise your screener to what is pictured below to gain better clarity from your respondents.
The outcome of these revisions will surely result in improved data collection and a happy client!
Screening questions benefit survey studies in a number of ways. Most significant are their effects on data analysis and level of bias. Take the time to understand who the respondents are, who they aren’t, and build your screening questions to avoid allowing the wrong participants into your study; focus on capturing the qualified gems!