Can You Accurately Identify a Leading Question?

Market researchers gathered around presentation board

For most things in life, being a leader is really awesome. So awesome that we’re trained to take on this role from a very early age, whether it’s through the games we play (remember “Simon Says”?) or the books we read (think Oh, the Places You’ll Go). We’re taught that being a leader means you have the ability to inspire people to be their best selves and motivate them to share in and work towards your vision.

It’s true. Leading is something you should always strive for… except, of course, when it comes to market research.

Don’t Follow the Leader

One of the biggest misfires a researcher can commit is writing leading questions, or questions written in a way that guides a respondent to provide a particular response. As much as we like to pretend we’re objective, analytical superheroes, researchers are actually human too! Sometimes individual preferences and opinions can sneak their way into our profession. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Of course, this is an absolute no-no in the research world. Leading questions negate your results. After all, the whole point of conducting market research is to gather objective consumer feedback, not find support for our own views. That’s why it’s critical that questions are worded free of bias so respondents can base their answers solely on their own perspectives and experiences.

So, to make sure your personal views stay personal, we’ve compiled a list of tips and red flags for you to watch out for as you craft your next questionnaire. (Oh, and there will be a quiz at the end, so be sure to pay attention!)

  • Use neutral language: Using strong, emotional words (both positive and negative) can influence how respondents think about a topic and, as a result, how they answer the question.
  • Avoid absolute words: Allow respondents to think about questions freely and naturally, rather than with certain black and white parameters in place.
  • Don’t embellish questions: Stay focused and avoid adding unnecessary information or context to a question; only include what you need.
  • Put the bias in the answer options, not the question: Instead of implying a biased response with your question wording, make that opinion an explicit choice in an inclusive list of answer options. (i.e., Would like more, Would like the same, Would like less, etc.)

Quiz time! Let’s put what you learned to the test.

  1. How would you rate our customer service on a scale of 1 to 10?

Not leading! This would have been leading if it read “How much do you love our customer service team?”

  1. How short was Napoleon?

Leading! To make it not leading, this could be rewritten as “How would you describe Napoleon’s appearance?”

  1. Do you agree that everyone should have access to free ice cream?

Leading! To make it not leading, this could be rewritten as “Should everyone have access to free ice cream?”

  1. What do you like about this idea?

Leading! To make it not leading, this could be rewritten as “What, if anything, do you like about this idea?”

  1. How, if at all, has your opinion of this product changed within the past 12 months?

Not leading! This would have been leading if it read “Has your opinion of this product improved now that the price is lower?”

  1. How likely are you to purchase Product ABC over other products because of your experience?

Not leading! This would have been leading if it read “Are you more likely to purchase Product ABC over others because of your experience?”

  1. How good was the treatment you received at the clinic?

Leading! To make it not leading, this could be rewritten as “How do you feel about the treatment you received at the clinic?”

  1. Are you aware that a homeowner’s policy does not cover flooding?

Leading! To make it not leading, this could be rewritten as “Which of the following, if any, do you believe are covered in a homeowner’s policy?” Then, provide a list of features and non-features of homeowner’s policies to determine which ones respondents already believe are included.

  1. How likely is it that you will attend the 2017 Music Festival at its beautiful, new location?

Leading! To make it not leading, this could be rewritten as “How likely is it that you will attend the 2017 Music Festival?”

  1. Should people be allowed to use Mace as self-defense?

Leading! To make it not leading, this could be rewritten as “What should people be allowed to use for self-defense?”

 

Congrats – now you’re ready to go out there and stop leading! To learn more about another approach to getting the most out of your qualitative research, check out the eGuide below, exploring the proper use of projective techniques.

Download eGuide