Screening Respondents for Market Research Surveys, Best Practices 1

Updated: November 22, 2010

Market research survey questions should never be leading, and this rule applies to the screener portion of the survey. The respondent should not be able to guess easily at what answer will allow them to proceed. A common mistake is present screener questions that are simply yes-no, or questions with only two answer choices. This can make it obvious as to which answer will allow you to continue and which will terminate the survey. Even by guessing, someone would have a 50/50 chance on passing with a two answer choice question.

A better approach is to build a short list where each answer option is a check-box style answer choice, or in other words a multi-select construct. The respondents check which items on the list apply to themselves. Further, to eliminate those who might check all on the list just to get into the survey, you can construct the list such that is impossible, or nearly so, to that all items apply. Finally, the order of the items on the list should be randomized the same order is not presented to every respondent.

Example 1

Consider this example, where we are screening to find out if the respondent owns a dog.

Poor question design:

Do you own a dog?

  • Yes
  • No [TERMINATE]

Best practice question design:

Do you own any of these types of pets?

Check all that apply.

[RANDOMIZE LIST]

  • Dog [IF DOG NOT SELECTED, THEN TERMINATE]
  • Cat
  • Bird
  • Reptile
  • Rabbit
  • Rodent
  • Horse
  • Fish
  • Pig
  • Other [ANCHOR, not rotated always in 10th position]
  • I do not have any pets. [ANCHOR. CANNOT BE CHECKED IF OTHERS ARE CHECKED]

In the above dog owner-screener example, the survey programmer notes are in square brackets [programming notes]. The best practice design makes it harder for the person who is guessing to select "Dog" and proceed with the survey. In a randomized list, it would not be obvious that we are looking for dog owners. Further, we can terminate anyone who selects all items 1 to 9. Although it is remotely possible that someone owns all nine pet types, it is very improbable. We accept the very small chance of mistakenly screening out a truthful many-pet-owner respondent. Better to eliminate a more likely scenario that someone simply checked all pet types just to into the survey. Contrast this with the poorly designed yes-no question, where we have no indication of foul play and are giving a would-be guesser a coin-flip chance of passing.

Example 2

Consider another example, where we are screening to find out if the respondent has shopped at Rite Aid in the past four weeks.

Poor question design:

Have you shopped at Rite Aid in the past four weeks?

  • š Yes
  • š No [TERMINATE]

Best practice question design:

Which of the following stores have you shopped at in the past 4 weeks, if any?

Check all that apply

[RANDOMIZE LIST]

  • Rite Aid [1. IF NOT SELECTED, THEN TERMINATE]
  • Wal-Mart [2]
  • Target [3]
  • Sears [4]
  • CVS [5]
  • Safeway [6]
  • Crest Foods [7. survey design note: Oklahoma City, OK, area]
  • Mayfair Markets [8. survey design note: supermarket only in Hollywood, California]
  • Roth's [9. survey design note: supermarket only in Oregon]
  • None of the above [10. ANCHOR, EXCLUSIVE]

[IF ANY TWO OF 7, 8, AND 9 ARE SELECTED THEN TERMINATE.]

On this best practice questions design, we are again showing a list which is randomized per respondent. Not only are we terminating if Rite Aid is not selected, but also we are eliminating anyone who selects any two the regional stores, 7 Crest Foods, 8 Mayfair Markets, and 9 Roth's. Because of the dispersed geographic locations of those stores, it is unreasonable that someone would have shopped in all three in the past four weeks.

Featured Research
  • Video Conferencing Goes to Court

    Think technology can’t be utilized in the courtroom? Think again. Video Conferencing within the court system can be extremely cost-effective, efficient, and time-saving. Courtrooms can benefit greatly by video conferencing in expert testimonies, translators, witness testimonies, and much more. more

  • Can Gamification Improve Contact Center Performance

    We have all heard the phrase "all work and no play". Well, would you believe us if we were to tell you that by implementing gamification you can INCREASE contact center engagement, morale, and overall performance? Spoiler alert: 89% of contact center employees believe that a point system within their contact center would boost their engagement! more

  • [Infographic] 8 Common Pain Points UC Eliminates

    Every company has moments of frustration, it is when these moments become extended periods of inefficiency, or pain points, where we start to see loss in productivity and employee morale. What truly sets a successful business apart from those of its competitors, is how they take these pain points and use them as opportunities to improve upon procedures and systems to eliminate pain points and move beyond what was the status quo. more

  • Go VoIP and Go Green

    You may be looking to switch to VoIP because of the cost benefits that it will bring your company, but did you know that it is also FAR BETTER than traditional phone systems for the environment as well? With environmental impact being at the forefront of both consumer and business minds, it is essential that business decisions are made now based on economic AND ecological impact. more

  • 10 Steps for Creating an Accurate Call Center Forecast

    While other customer service channels are gaining traction, phone support is still one of the most HEAVILY used customer service communication methods. Now what does this mean for YOUR business? We answer that question and more in our latest paper which discusses the importance of knowing call volumes, peak call times, and industry trends so YOU can accurately staff your call center to handle all your clients demands. more