TABLE 2-6 Suggestions for Improving Survey Questions

Objective of Question/Response Original Question Improved Question Considerations
Determine whether the respondent is a supplement user Have you ever used any type of dietary supplement? Have you used or taken any dietary supplements (i.e., vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements) in the past year? On the figure below, please circle the months in which you used a dietary supplement. Important to specify time period of interest (i.e., past week, month, year), duration, and proximity of consumption period to the present time period.
Have you used or taken any dietary supplements in the past month?
How many days in the past month did you use a dietary supplement?
Assess type of supplement use Do you use antioxidant supplements? When you used supplements in the past month, did you use antioxidants? Important to define supplements to ensure consistency in participant responses.
Definition of antioxidants should be included. Important to include specific questions about dietary supplements of concern.
Assess dose/amount of dietary supplement consumed How much creatine do you consume during the loading phase? gm/day Please retrieve the container for your dietary supplement before answering these questions. When you took creatine, how much did you take in one day? <500 mg, 400–499 mg, etc. Important to have respondent retrieve the supplement container and provide information directly from it.
Provide response options to determine reasons for use of dietary supplements Select the reasons that you use supplements:
  1. promote general health
  2. reduce fatigue
  3. lose weight
  4. prevent illness
Select the reasons that you use supplements:
  1. promote general health (health is defined as …)
  2. reduce fatigue
  3. lose weight
  4. prevent illness
  5. other: _______ (please explain)
Include appropriate options that are consistent with respondents’ actual experiences. May be necessary to add a response such as “Other: ____ (please explain).” Response options may be obtained from open questions in preliminary interviews or pretests of the survey.
Determine whether supplement users experience adverse events when using a specific dietary supplement Current surveys do not ask for this information. During the time that you were using (insert supplement name here), did you experience any of the following symptoms:
  1. shortness of breath
  2. sleeplessness
  3. heart palpitations
  4. seizures
  5. other: _________
Response options may be composed of symptoms that are reported in civilian populations, reported through surveillance methods such as MedWatch, or obtained from open questions in preliminary interviews or pretests of the survey.
Determine whether supplement users perceive benefits when using a specific dietary supplement Current surveys do not ask for this information. During the time that you were using (insert supplement name here), did you experience any of the following:
  1. better job performance
  2. increased alertness
  3. delayed fatigue
  4. diminished fatigue
  5. weight loss
  6. other: __________
Response options may be obtained from product labels (i.e., health claims made by manufacturer), open questions in preliminary interviews, or pretests of the survey.
Determine circumstances of supplement use Current surveys do not ask for this information. Under what circumstances do you take dietary supplements (circle all that apply)?
  1. all the time
  2. only during deployments
  3. only when not deployed
  4. when need to do my job better
  5. before performance evaluations
  6. other: __________
Why do you take dietary supplements?
  1. improve job performance
  2. increase alertness
  3. delay fatigue
  4. diminish fatigue
  5. weight loss
  6. other: ___________

From: 2, Recent Survey Findings and Implications for Future Surveys of Dietary Supplement Use

Cover of Use of Dietary Supplements by Military Personnel
Use of Dietary Supplements by Military Personnel.
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Dietary Supplement Use by Military Personnel; Greenwood MRC, Oria M, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2008.
Copyright © 2008, National Academy of Sciences.

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