Double-barreled question definition:
A double-barreled question is a question composed of more than two separate issues or topics, but which can only have one answer. A double-barreled question is also known as a compound question or double-direct question.
The double-barreled questions occur mostly in two very different circumstances: in research and in court.
In research, they are often used by accident. Surveyors often want to explain or clarify certain aspects of their questions by adding synonyms or additional information. Although this is often done with good intentions, this tends to make your question confusing and, of course, double-barreled. There's no way of discovering the true intentions of the respondent from the data afterward, which basically renders it useless for analysis.
In court, however, double-barreled questions are used by lawyers to trick witnesses or suspects into admitting something unintendedly. Compound questions are most frequently asked during cross-examination. An example could be: As you approached the intersection, did you look down, change the radio station, and then look up and for the first time notice the oncoming car?
Double-barreled questions example:
The following examples are research-related.
Is this tool interesting and useful?
This question has two parts embedded. Hence the word “double-barreled”. Even though interesting and useful are both positive attributes, they are not interchangeable. Some respondents might find the tool interesting, but not useful. While others might find it useful, but not interesting. But how should they answer? And more importantly, how can the surveyor interpret these answers?
It would be better to ask two separate questions:
Is the tool interesting?
Is the tool useful?
- How often and how much time do you spend on each visit to a dentist?
- How often do you visit a dentist?
- How much time do you spend on a visit to a dentist?
- How satisfied are you with your pay and work environment?
- How satisfied are you with your pay?
- How satisfied are you with your work environment?
Preventing double-barreled questions in research:
Preventing these questions and the loss of actionable data they bring is actually quite easy. Make sure you have enough quality checks built in your survey creation and design process. Have a test group at the ready to filter out any confusing bits before you go to the masses. For more information, check these tips on how to write more compelling questions and read this guide on how to pick the right question type for whatever question you might have.