What is a Double-Barreled Question, And How Do You Avoid It?

SurveyPluto 06/28/2024 1066 words

What is a Double-Barreled Question, And How Do You Avoid It

Double-barreled questions can affect the quality of collected data in your surveys. These questions are okay at first glance but they combine two different issues into a single question. If you don’t pay attention to these questions, then your survey results will surely be impacted since the respondents will be uncertain about which topic they should prioritize in their answers.

What Are The Impact of Double-Barreled Questions on Survey Results?

Data Inaccuracy

It’s normal for respondents to struggle in deciding which they will answer first if there are two topics in one question. Therefore, the answer will not 100% reflect their true experience.

Skewed Response

The last thing you want as a researcher is to unintentionally skew the distribution of responses. Obviously, with double-barreled questions, your survey participants might gravitate towards neutral options. This is true especially if their opinions on the various aspects vary. More importantly, it can also cover up important variations that would be clear if the questions are asked separately.

Additionally, researchers might draw incorrect conclusions leading to misguided decisions which misleads central tendency in the data.

Reduced Response Rates and Survey Fatigue

Did you know there is a cognitive load imposed by double-barreled questions? This refers to the amount of information a person’s memory can process at any given time, so with a double-barreled question, the brain is already fatigued. If your respondent experiences this, you will have incomplete surveys due to respondent frustration.

Compromised Validity

The validity or the accuracy with which a survey measures what it intends to measure is also compromised when questions address multiple constructs simultaneously. This makes it so hard to get correct conclusions from the data collected. Think of it this way - it’s like trying to hit two birds with one stone but missing both - something you should totally avoid.

Challenges in Data Analysis

Expect ambiguous responses when you have double-barreled questions. Because of this, the responses will be so hard to interpret since it’s not structured well. This can worsen your survey results which will completely put all your effort to waste.

Practical Tips to Avoid Double-Barreled Questions

Practical Tips to Avoid Double-Barrelled Questions

Assess Each Question

Having a thorough review process is essential in research, whatever topic it may be. You can do this by carefully looking for any issues and making sure you pay attention to conjunctions like "and" or "or” - these words usually mean multiple topics. Remember though that it's not recommended to only rely only on these linguistic markers since some double-barreled questions can also be very subtle.

Break It Down

When you encounter a double-barrelled question, immediately split it into separate queries to  increase the overall number of questions in your survey.

Use Concise Language

Clarity is key in survey design, whatever niche you are making it for. Use simple language as well. This will guarantee respondents will surely understand what you're asking. Avoid complex sentence structures that introduce multiple concepts.

The goal is to make it as easy as possible for participants to provide accurate responses. If a question requires multiple re-reads, simplify.

Implement Peer Reviews

Sometimes, researchers are too close to their work to spot issues. It helps to get colleagues to review the questions because fresh eyes can often catch double-barreled questions that you might have overlooked. Encourage your reviewers to be critical and to flag any questions which feel unclear.

Conduct Pilot Tests

Real-world trials can reveal double-barreled questions that slipped through earlier reviews. Pay close attention to feedback from survey pilot participants especially if they express confusion about any questions. This is such a valuable input so use it to refine your survey further.

Take Advantage of Survey Design Tools

Nowadays, technology can be your friend in research too. There are so many survey platforms that offer tools that can help identify potential double-barreled questions by identifying those that exceed a certain word count. Of course, these automated checks should not totally replace human review, but they definitely can serve as a helpful additional layer of eyes. Most tools also have templates you can follow that are already pre-checked for double-barreled questions.

Incorrect and Correct Examples of Survey Questions

Incorrect Examples

● "How satisfied are you with our product quality and customer service?"

This question combines two aspects of the business. More importantly, it makes it impossible for respondents to provide a clear answer if their experiences with both differ.

● "Do you think our company's prices are fair and our products are high-quality?"

Here, we're asking about pricing and quality in a single question, which could lead to confused or inaccurate responses.

● "How often and for how long do you use our mobile app?"

This particular question includes two separate metrics that should be individually answered.

● "Is our website easy to navigate and do you find it visually appealing?"

Yes, while those questions may be related, they are two distinct aspects of website design that should have separate evaluation.

● "Do you prefer our new packaging design and find it environmentally friendly?"

Again, this question asks about preference and environmental friendliness - two separate topics.

Correct Examples

● Incorrect: "How satisfied are you with our product quality and customer service?"


"Are you satisfied with our product quality?"

"Are you satisfied with our customer service?"

● Incorrect: "Do you think our company's prices are fair and our products are high-quality?"


"Do you think our company's prices are fair?"

"Do you consider our products to be high-quality?"

● Incorrect: "How often and for how long do you use our mobile app?"


"How often do you use our mobile app?"

"On average, how long do you spend using our mobile app in a single session?"

● Incorrect: "Is our website easy to navigate and visually appealing?"


"How easy do you find our website to navigate?"

"How visually appealing do you find our website?"

● Incorrect: "Do you prefer our new packaging design and find it more environmentally friendly?"


"Do you prefer our new packaging design over the previous one?"

"How environmentally friendly do you consider our new packaging design to be?"

SurveyPluto Can Help

Double-barreled questions are very sneaky queries but when you understand what they are,  you can make surveys that yield clearer insights.

The key is to keep each question focused on a single issue. When in doubt it's always better to split a complex question into two or more simpler ones. To help catch double-barreled questions, consider using tools like SurveyPluto.

Creating effective surveys is both an art and a science! It requires attention to detail so the next time you're crafting a survey just take a step back and look at each question.

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