Question and questionnaire design

This chapter Jon A. Krosnick and Stanley Presser presents a number of recommendations about survey design based on conventional wisdom and a review of the methodological literature.

It focuses on wording choice, structural features of questions, and outlines various sorts of bias that can affect participant response.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Alice Macfarlan.

Authors and their affiliation

Jon A. Krosnick (Stanford University) and Stanley Presser (University of Maryland)

Key features

This chapter, which appears in the Handbook of Survey Research (2nd Edition, eds. James D. Wright and Peter V. Marsden), outlines a number of considerations when designing survey questions and makes recommendations based on a review of common wisdom and methodological research.

Topics covered include:

  • Optimizing vs satisficing
  • Open vs. closed questions
  • Rating scales, including number of points, and clarity and uniformity of scale point meanings
  • Translation ease
  • Order of response alternatives
  • Question order
  • Testing and evaluating questionnaires

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

I've designed a few surveys over the last few years but always worry about whether my questions are written appropriately in order to get the most accurate response possible. This chapter walks through a number of key issues and is useful as a refresher and something to refer back to when I next go to design a survey.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

I like the depth in this chapter. While there's a lot of very useful short summaries around about what not to do in survey design, I find this a quite accessibly written deeper dive into the theoretical issues behind this advice.


Krosnick, J. A. and Presser, S. (2009) 'Question and Questionnaire Design'. Handbook of Survey Research (2nd Edition) James D. Wright and Peter V. Marsden (Eds). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.