Asking Survey Questions About Sex and Gender

Sheila here, writing with my partner in survey design Kim, of Leonard Research & Evaluation with a longform interview with esteemed evaluation colleagues Dylan Felt and Gregory Phillips II. At the time of this writing Dylan is a PhD student in Sociomedical Sciences—Sociology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health who studies the social conditions which produce health within transgender populations. Gregory is a tenured Associate Professor at Northwestern University who studies factors associated with health disparities among LGBTQ+ populations. 

Dylan and Gregory have been amazing in their generosity and willingness to share their vast knowledge in this space. We were honored to present a session on asking survey questions about sex and gender at Evaluation 2021, the annual conference of the American Evaluation Association. We’ve been fortunate to stay in touch with them since! 

Four steps for dealing with too many open-ended questions in survey design

Open-ended survey questions have the potential to yield high quality, rich, nuanced data that provide deep insights into people’s attitudes, behaviors, experiences, and more.

Sometimes we genuinely need open-ended survey questions to capture the information we’re looking for. Open-ended questions often feel easier to compose, and more natural to ask because they more closely mirror the way that we communicate with one another. 

However, in survey format, open-ended questions can also be very challenging for respondents to answer. 

Must-have Ingredients for a Solid Survey Invitation

A good, well thought out survey invitation can go a long way in preventing frustration. Centering respondents in survey design means paying attention to the respondent experience from start to finish–including the survey invitation. It isn’t difficult to write a compelling and helpful introduction to your survey.