What kind of demographic information should I collect about my sample? What kind of questions should I use to collect demographic information? How do I ask about sex and gender?

The kinds of data you need will depend on your research question/field. A balance must be struck between validating and being sensitive to respondent choice by providing a broad and inclusive list, vs managing survey time and data analysis by perhaps limiting the number of choices provided.

Questions to ask yourself as you plan your demographic questions:

  • Why are you asking the question? 
    • Because the answer is directly relevant to your hypothesis
    • To establish your participant profile for the purposes of publication.
  • Are there meaningful differences between the categories you list?
  • Is the population you are targeting sensitive to depth of responses available?
  • The degree of specificity will depend on the type of research you are doing. Clearly, research in the area of relationships and sexuality will require highly detailed responses to questions of sexual orientation, gender and sex, and relationship status
  • Open text boxes may provide and allow for diversity – but what impact might this have on data analysis? Formulate questions which will provide the information you must have, while respecting the diversity of the population.

Asking About Age

Q: How old are you?           ________________   [or include age ranges]

Note: Do not collect full birth date unless necessary – since this can be fully identifying.

Asking about Sex and Gender

Sex: the physical and biological characteristics that identify a person as male or female

Q: What is your sex?

  • Female
  • Male
  • Intersex
  • Choose not to respond

Gender: largely social construct that associates certain behaviours, roles, expectations, and values with being male or female

Q: What is your gender? 

  • Woman 
  • Man 
  • My gender identity is not listed above ____________________
  • Choose not to respond

Asking about Sexual Orientation

Q: Which of these commonly used terms would you use to describe your sexual orientation?

  • Heterosexual
  • Gay
  • Lesbian
  • Bisexual
  • Queer
  • My sexual orientation is not listed above

If your sexual orientation is not listed above, please tell us how you identify: ___________________________________________________

Asking about Relationship Status

Q: My current relationship status is: 

  • Married
  • Cohabitating
  • Divorced
  • Separated
  • Single, never married
  • My relationship status is not listed here: _________________________

Asking about Ethnicity

Q: Which of the following BEST describes your ethnic background? Please CHECK ALL THAT APPLY.

  • Indigenous (Inuit/First Nations/Métis)
  • White/European
  • Black/African/Caribbean
  • Southeast Asian (e.g., Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Filipino.etc)
  • Arab (Saudi Arabian, Palestinian, Iraqi, etc)
  • South Asian (East Indian, Sri Lankan, etc)
  • Latin American (Costa Rican, Guatemalan, Brazilian, Colombian, etc)
  • West Asian (Iranian, Afghani, etc)
  • Other (please specify) _________________________________ 

Asking about Education

Q: Which of the following best describes your HIGHEST level of education?

  • Some high school
  • Completed high school
  • Some college/university
  • Apprenticeship training and trades
  • Completed college/university
  • Some graduate education
  • Completed graduate education
  • Professional degrees
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Human Ethics
Data collection, stewardship and dissemination