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Marketers often use surveys to gain an understanding of how their customers think and feel about products and services. However, if a survey is not structured and written correctly, it may lead to misleading or incorrect results.

A poorly crafted survey is vulnerable to response bias, which causes participants to answer questions inaccurately. As a result, you will likely misunderstand how your customers really feel about your product.

Response bias can occur for assorted reasons. A survey instrument (questionnaire) may contain leading questions, for example, or it may be too long, too complicated, or poorly ordered—all of which can cause response bias.

Fortunately, you can take steps to at least minimize response bias. For example:

  • Use easy-to-understand language.
  • Consider the knowledge level of participants, and provide additional explanations or definitions accordingly.
  • Give an "out" to questions (e.g., if you want to know whether participants like a specific candy, make "I've never had this candy" a response option).
  • Consider concealing the purpose of the survey; if its known to respondents, they may attempt to tailor their responses.

This response-bias checklist (PDF) from Chattermill can help you vet your survey questions before delivering the survey to participants. Together with the following guide/infographic, they'll help you to identify and avoid response bias in the surveys you field.

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image of Vahe Habeshian

Vahe Habeshian is the director of publications at MarketingProfs and a longtime editor. Reach him via

LinkedIn: Vahe Habeshian

Twitter: @habesh