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Does the order of questions matter in the survey?

Can you clarify from your statistical reasoning why this flow order is optimal for filling out this survey? If an alumnus/student asks me, I want to be able to provide the best possible reasons based on your statistical analysis from previous surveys

The order in which questions are asked in a questionnaire can have a significant effect on survey results. Researchers have demonstrated that the order in which questions are asked can influence how survey participants respond. Preceding questions provide the context to which respondents answer a question (a phenomenon called 'priming'), and changing this context can make a large difference in the results.

Earlier questions – in particular, those directly preceding other questions – can provide a frame of reference for the questions that follow (these effects are called “order effects”). For closed-ended opinion questions, there are two main types of order effects: contrast effects, where the order results in greater differences in responses, and assimilation effects, where responses are more similar as a result of their order.

Questions within a survey should be grouped by topic and unfold in a logical order, like a conversation. It is often helpful to begin the survey with simple questions that respondents will find interesting and engaging to help establish rapport and motivate them to continue to participate in the survey. Throughout the survey, an effort should be made to keep the survey interesting and not overburden respondents with several difficult questions right after one another.

Demographic questions such as income, education or age should not be asked near the beginning of a survey unless they are needed to determine eligibility for the survey or for routing respondents through particular sections of the questionnaire. Even then, it is best to precede such items with more interesting and engaging questions.

The order questions are asked is of particular importance when tracking trends over time. As a result, care should be taken to ensure that the context is similar each time a question is asked. Modifying the context of the question could call into question any observed changes over time.

We utilize a template-driven approach with the MBA Lifecycle surveys which improves reliability for trending as well as benchmark comparisons. Additionally, the question order and grouping of survey 'dimensions' within our MBA Lifecycle survey instruments are carefully crafted to reduce respondent confusion and answer bias while improving cohesion and ability of the respondent to answer the questions in an efficient fashion.