When constructing questions for a survey, the first thing the researcher must do is explicitly determine the research objectives: What is it that he or she wishes to know? The survey questions must be tied to the research questions that are being addressed. Too often, surveys get out of hand when researchers begin to ask any question that comes to mind about a topic without considering exactly what useful information will be gained by doing so. This process will usually require the researcher to decide on the type of questions to ask. There are three general types of survey questions (Judd, Smith, & Kidder, 1991).
Attitudes and beliefs Questions about attitudes and beliefs focus on the ways that people evaluate and think about issues. Should more money be spent on mental health services? Are you satisfied with the way that police responded to your call? How do you evaluate this instructor?
Facts and demographics Factual questions ask people to indicate things they know about themselves and their situation. In most studies, asking some demographic information is necessary to adequately describe your sample; thus, questions about age, gender, and ethnicity are typically asked. Depending on the topic of the study, questions on marital status, employment status, and number of children might be included. Obviously, if you are interested in making comparisons among groups, such as males and females, you must ask the relevant information about group membership. You may also need such Page 136information to adequately describe the sample. It is unwise and even unethical to ask people to respond to questions if you have no real reason to use the information, however.
Other factual information you might ask will depend on the topic of your survey. Each year, Consumer Reports magazine asks readers to tell them about the repairs that have been necessary on many of the products that the readers owned, such as cars and dishwashers. Factual questions about illnesses and other medical information would be asked in a survey of health and quality of life.
Behaviors Other survey questions can focus on past behaviors or intended future behaviors. How many days last week did you exercise for 20 minutes or longer? How many children do you plan to have? Have you ever been so depressed that you called in sick to work?