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Definition and Example of Leading Questions

Posted: Jul 15, 2015

Leading QuestionsIn several posts in the past I have referred to the concept of Leading Questions.  Let's spend some time today deep diving into what leading questions really are.

Short Definition of Leading Questions

The short definition of a Leading Question is one that hints or suggests to respondents as to how to answer a survey question.

Why are Leading Questions Bad?

Leading Questions are bad because they give you inaccurate data.  They do not truly represent how a user is a thinking or what their opinions are.

Example of a Leading Question

Let's assume your website or product just went through an update.  You are proud of it and are excited to see how customers have reacted to the upgrade.  In the survey you ask the question: We have recently upgraded our site to provide a better customer experience.  What is your opinion of the new upgrade? Can you see what is wrong with this question?  Without even taking my opinion into consideration (or even see the upgrade) I immediately think that it is an improvement and that I should like.  As a customer I am always happy when improvements are made so I am immediately going to answer that I like the upgrade. What data did my answer provide to you as a survey owner?  Was it any help at all?  No - it was not.

How to avoid Leading Questions

Leading questions are so easy to include without even truly thinking about them.  Look at the example above.  As a company I always want to present a positive outlook on my product or service - especially in customer service situations.  However during a survey you want to avoid leading questions otherwise your data and efforts will be worthless. To avoid creating leading questions ensure that you are using phrases that paint a picture for the user.  In the above example I could have used. We have recently upgraded our customer service site.  What is your opinion of the upgrade? Do you see the difference between the two examples?  How did the second example make you respond?  How did that compare to the first question which had leading text within it?

Final Thoughts

Leading questions are so easy to include in your survey - even if you don't intend to.  It is natural to wait to paint as pretty a picture of your service as possible for your customers.  However a survey is not the place to manipulate respondents into thinking a certain way.  A survey is where you want their true opinions to surface.  Then you will have valuable data that can improve your product. Again - the definition of a leading question is one that hints or suggests to respondents as to how to answer a survey question.  Avoid leading questions.

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