The role of question characteristics in designing and evaluating survey questions

Jennifer Dykema, Nora Cate Schaeffer, Dana Garbarski, Michael Hout

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


When developing questions for standardized measurement, question writers often focus on characteristics of the question (e.g. length, difficulty). Although we know much about the effects of some question characteristics on data quality, our field is still in the process of developing a comprehensive typology in which question characteristics are cataloged and organized, effects on interviewers’ and respondents’ processing are understood, and effects on data quality are documented. We provide an overview of some of the approaches used to conceptualize, measure, and code question characteristics. Our review leads us to (i) a conceptual model for exploring effects of question characteristics on interviewers’ and respondents’ cognitive processing and data quality and (ii) a typology of question characteristics. We present two case studies that compare how well summary measures of question characteristics - or “problems” associated with those characteristics - predict data quality. We conclude with an agenda for future studies of question characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Questionnaire Design, Development, Evaluation and Testing
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9781119263685
ISBN (Print)9781119263623
StatePublished - Dec 18 2019


  • Coding systems
  • Data quality
  • Interaction coding
  • Question characteristics
  • Questionnaire design
  • Reliability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of question characteristics in designing and evaluating survey questions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this