How to Write a Proper Survey Introduction

Hello everyone! During my time as a survey creator, I have seen countless online surveys, each with its own format and structure. In fact, there is no concrete standard for online surveys that survey creators must follow. The lack of standardization can be seen most clearly in differences between survey introductions and the information provided within them. This freedom in the creation process does help researchers create their own unique look and feel, but it can also leave researchers confused on what information they should be including.

In this article, we will cut through all the colourful designs and interesting styles found in surveys and discuss what makes a proper introduction so crucial, as well as the key sources of content that should be included in all questionnaire intros!

Why are Introductions so Important?

It is argued by many research professionals that creating the correct introduction is the most important part of developing a survey. The reason for this strong sentiment is that the majority of potential respondents will decide whether or not to drop out of the questionnaire based solely on the first page. So, in essence, the intro of the survey acts as the hook to keep respondents.

Furthermore, just like in person interviews, the introduction will set the tone for the rest of the survey. Without providing the correct information your respondents may feel uncomfortable or suspicious of the research study. So when you create your introduction, look at your survey from the perspective of the respondent. Remember, each respondent has to decide whether they are going to provide you with their personal information. The best advice is to try to predict if there are any concerns a respondent may have, and address them immediately in the survey.

The Introduction Essentials

The screen shot below depicts a bare bones introduction. As you will see, each sentence of the intro has a purpose and represents a necessary element of the first page of any questionnaire.

Blog -Introduction Screen Shot 1

To create an excellent first page a researcher should ensure that the introduction contains four key parts:

1) A thank you statement: An introductory thank you will go a long way for making respondents feel welcome and willing to participate. Not only should this statement reflect your gratitude to the respondent, it should also highlight the importance of their input. This will make the respondent feel valuable to the study.

2) The topic of the study: Many people can be reluctant to complete a survey that they do not understand or are suspicious of. It’s therefore best to be up front and transparent with your research goals and purpose. Explain why you’re conducting the questionnaire and how the data will be used. This will build respondent trust and encourage honest, truthful survey answers.

3) The expected time to complete the survey: Respondents will be more likely to take part in a study if they have an idea of how much time they can expect to spend on the questionnaire. Moreover, adding the estimated time will show that you take into account the respondent’s schedule and are not wasting his/her time.

4) A confidentiality statement: If you’re collecting data for the purpose of studying a group as a whole, rather than individual respondents, make sure you promote the survey as confidential. Assuring respondents stay anonymous will allow them to put their privacy concerns at ease and answer all questions truthfully.

TIP: If your survey requires external information on a topic or familiarization with a document, it is best to identify this and provide a link on the bottom of the introductory page. That way they can follow the link before they begin the survey. Do not cut and paste large documents to the introduction! This will look messy and increase the number of drop outs.

The styling is up to you, but by ensuring that each of these elements is present in your survey introduction, respondents will be more likely to participate and provide rich information!

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  • murchkin says:

    How to write a catchy and effective introduction while adhering to University ethics requirements?

    • RickPenwarden says:

      Hey murchkin! It is very important to follow your own business’s, or in this case, University’s ethical requirements. But this shouldn’t have a hindrance on an effective introduction. By being courteous as well as transparent about your survey’s goals and length your introduction will be appreciated.

      If you need to add extra lengthy information for ethical purposes, give a brief one liner summarizing what it is about and a link to get all the information. This will save both space on your intro page and the time it takes your respondent to get started. Hope this helps!

  • Jellybean says:

    I am planning a survey that is proactive, with senior managers contacting a randomly selected list of customers every month. Can you give me tips in ensuring that when they ask the questions, they do not lead the customer into saying something that would introduce bias in the response? Thank you so much.

    • RickPenwarden says:

      Hey Jellybean! Sounds like a fun survey project. When doing in person interviews, like having senior managers contact customers directly poses different challenges than surveying through an automated email list or pop up campaign. Most notable would be a stronger amount of ‘social desirability bias,’ or in other words people trying to give the answer the interviewer would most approve of. Another source of bias could come from the different interview styles of the managers, like different levels of professionalism or happiness during the interview.
      You may want to go the route of the mass telesurveying style, by forcing a strict process on the respondent selection and how the manager can interact with their respondents.
      Hope this helps!

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