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What is a preconceived question in a Survey?

Posted: Dec 23, 2015

Preconceived QuestionsFrom a general dictionary you can find a definition for Preconceived Notion as follows: Preconceived notions are ideas or beliefs that a person forms, before actually encountering someone or something, or before learning of any evidence about them/it. "Preconceived" means, "to form a conception or opinion of beforehand, as before seeing evidence or as a result of a previously held prejudice." "Notions" means ideas or beliefs.

What is a Preconceived Question?

Expanding from the definition of a Preconceived Notion, a Preconceived Question is a question that is asked in such a way that the person responding is provided with an answer without thinking of it on their own.  A Preconceived question is in many ways very similar to a Leading Question.

What does Preconceived Questions do to Survey Data?

Plain and Simple - it corrupts the data.  The problem with Preconceived Questions is that it does not properly collect honest and true data.  Imagine a question where you ask your respondents how likely they are to recommend your company on a scale of 1-5.  In your question you have given them a preconceived notion that they SHOULD be recommending your company.  Without even meaning to do it - you make them feel like they are being rude or mean if they answer low in the recommendation scale. Instead you could phrase a simple yes or no question.  "Would you or would you not recommend this company?"  This question forces the respondent to actually be more truthful about where their allegiance truly lies.  In the previous example it is too easy for users to hide in the 2-3 range when they really wanted to answer with a 1.

How do you avoid Preconceived Questions?

Avoiding Preconceived Questions is not that difficult - you simply need to take your time and double check your work.  Ensure that your question is focused and to the point.  Avoid providing pieces of information that would influence how the respondent would answer.  Try to make it easy as possible for the respondent to answer in any form or fashion without any sort of judgement or fallout.   Avoiding preconceived questions can take more time and require a little more work - but in the end your data will be much stronger.  Armed with this data you will be able to make better decisions and get more value from your research.

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