Tips for survey takers

by Maggie Whitley | published on July, 2020

As market researchers, we know a good respondent when we see one. Personally, I've read and analyzed thousands of open-ended responses in search of the ever-elusive "money quote" — a comment that succinctly summarizes what many others were trying to say but couldn't eloquently express — or, in some cases, didn't take the time to try.

Sometimes, when out to eat with friends, someone will provide the group with a great review or unique point of view on some aspect of our dining experience. It might be a passing comment about the ambiance, food quality, beer selection, service, or even the bathrooms. As a market researcher, these candid comments make me stop and say, "That's a money quote!" Some people naturally give good feedback.

Would you be a good survey respondent?

Thinking about your habits is a good place to start if you're wondering whether you're someone who would make a great survey respondent.

  • Are you someone who takes the time to write reviews for businesses online?
  • Do you like to share your favorite — or least favorite — products with your followers on social media?
  • When you edited a classmate's paper in school, did your teacher compliment your detailed, helpful notes on the draft?
  • Have you ever contacted customer service to inquire about problems you encountered with a product or service, not just to complain, but in hopes that your comments would help them improve?

If you've ever been told that you give great feedback, you're likely a great candidate to be a respondent on a panel. If you haven't heard this, or if you didn't answer yes to every question — don't worry. There are ways to become an excellent survey taker.

How to provide your best answers when taking online surveys

You might be wondering what key characteristics separate the good respondents from the not-so-great respondents. Is it the time they take on a survey, the thought they put into their answers, or the way they interpret questions? It may be a combination of all three.

Following a few simple best practices when taking a survey will allow you to provide meaningful, valuable responses. Thoughtful survey feedback can help companies make informed business decisions to meet the needs of the consumers they serve.

Take your time

Don't rush through questions. Participants who complete a survey in an unrealistic amount of time are called speeders. Researchers have the ability to identify speeders and will often discard their survey responses. Make sure to read all questions and instructions carefully. Also, take your time to go through tasks such as sorting or pairing.

example of sorting question in a survey

Write thoughtful and complete responses

The purpose of open-ended questions is to get to know you and hear what you think. It's important that you answer each question thoroughly and to the best of your ability.

“Absolutely my favorite shorts! I was between a 27 and 28 and went with the 27 due to them running large in size. They have the perfect baggy fit and are so flattering. I had to get the waist even more altered because I am truly a 25 in the waist, but due to my larger legs, I go up in size. I have to say I wear these jeans on repeat, and they do stretch with more wear! Highly recommend!” - Jillian

Sub-par responses include:

  • Making rude or unhelpful comments
  • Giving nonsensical responses
  • Copying and pasting directly from a concept or survey question
  • Reusing the same response for multiple questions
  • Providing no open-ended feedback when given several opportunities

Stay focused until the end 

As a survey respondent, you'll often receive compensation for your time and thoughts, but usually, the most satisfying reward is helping to improve products or services you use. When taking surveys, make sure that you give every question your full attention. Researchers have methods for identifying disengaged respondents (and bots) and design surveys accordingly. Respondents that don't take their time to answer truthfully are likely to be identified and, consequently, have their survey data thrown out for not paying attention.

Want to participate in paid research opportunities?

Surveys are an excellent way for people to supplement their income, but in return for compensation, you should be willing to provide thoughtful responses. If you are interested in becoming a member of Bellomy's research panel, please sign up — we would love to have you.

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