Including Extra Instructions Before a Survey Question: A Great Example from UW

I received a paper survey from the University of Washington Medical Center. It included this question about health care in the last 3 months:


Notice that it includes specific instructions to “…not include the times you saw a dentist”. This is a great example of taking extra steps to ensure your respondents understand the question as you intended it to be understood.

I don’t know if UW conducted cognitive interviews on this survey prior to fielding this survey. Cognitive interviews are a method they may have used to discover that respondents consider their dentist as part of their health care team.  It might also mean they okay with respondents including  non-MD’s such as chiropractor, podiatrist, naturopaths, etc. as part of one’s health care team.

I highly recommend that you conduct a think aloud cognitive interview on your survey questions prior to fielding them. I discussed them in a previous post as well. If you don’t have a budget (or much time) for this then conduct interviews with a few friends (if no NDA is required) or with work colleagues who are not involved in the survey and preferably not on the Insights team.


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