At the start of psychological studies, you typically ask some demographic questions.

Definitions of "demographics"

Oxford dictionary: Statistical data relating to the population and particular groups within it.

Wikipedia: Demographics are quantifiable characteristics of a given population.


  • How old are you?

  • Which ethnic/racial group do you most identify with?

  • What is your gender?

For many of these questions, you might want to add a line "Prefer not to answer".
The wording of these questions should be chosen sensitively. You want to make sure you do not exclude or offend anyone. Remember that you want to make your participates feel comfortable with the questions.

Asking about sex/gender

There are different ways to ask about gender/sex. While most people classify themselves as man or woman, this is not always the case and it is important to make sure people can choose an option that matches their situation. It is bad practise to frustrate your participants by not giving them any option.

It really depends on what you want to know. Most likely, you do not have a further interest in the complexity of gender identification. If you do, you will likely know what to ask, but what to ask if you simply want to know what applies to the majority of people? There are three ways to do this:

One solution is not to mention the word gender or sex in the question at all:

Are you? - Male - Female - Non-binary - Prefer not to say

If you really only want to know about sex, you can do this:

What is your biological sex? - Male - Female - Intersex - Prefer not to say

Another way is to give some more options, such as:

What is your gender? - Male - Female - Prefer to self-describe, namely …​ - Prefer not to say

So make sure you give all people an option to choose from.


Asking about age can be difficult for two reasons:

  1. People might feel giving too many details makes them idenfyable.

  2. Some people never want to share their age with anyone (these are typically people who would like to be younger than they really are)

To solve this, it might be good to have age groups, such as:

What age group do you fall in? - under 18 - 18-25 - 25-39 - 40-65 - over 65

Religion and ethnicicity

Also, the choice of words and the order of, say religions, in non-alphabetical order can be viewed as a researcher bias.

Ethnicity classifications can be difficult to decide on, and they seem to vary from survey to survey. They can be different even within parts of a country (e.g., England vs Scotland). You can find lists of classifications used by governmental organisations on the web (for USA, for for UK).
The example below is simply a suggestion. It is best to carefully think about whether you need each question and if the proposed text and choices match your participants.

Run the demo


One of the special features of PsyToolkit is that you can enter numbers in a textline, and that the website will only allow numbers in a certain range if you wish so. Alternatively, you can use the range item (for a good example of this, see this scale).

Also, note the option to enter "other" in some of the radio questions.

In the employment question, you can create subdivisions (see example code to do it yourselve).

In element lines (the ones starting with a minus sign), options are always in curly brackets.

The survey code for PsyToolkit

Copy and paste this code to your PsyToolkit account if you want to use the scale in your own online research project
l: age
t: textline
q: How old are you?
- {min=18,max=100}

l: gender
t: radio
q: What is your gender?
- Male
- Female
- {other,size=50} Prefer to self-describe (please specify)

l: education
t: radio
q: What is the highest level of education you have completed?
- Primary school
- GCSEs or equivalent
- A-Levels or equivalent
- University undergraduate programme
- University post-graduate programme
- Doctoral degree

l: religion
t: radio
q: Do you practise a religion, and if so, which one?
- None (atheism)
- Buddhism
- Christianity
- Hinduism
- Islam
- Judaism
- Paganism
- Sikhism
- {other} Other

l: ethnicity
q: How would you best describe your ethnic origin?
t: radio
- Asian or Asian British
- Black or Black British
- Chinese
- Mixed
- White
- {other,size=80} Other or detailed specific ethnic group name

l: employment
t: radio
q: What best describes your employment status?
- Unemployed<br><br><hr>
- Full time student with further employment
- Full time student without further employment
- Part time student with additional employment
- Part time student without additional employment<br><br><hr>
- Self-employed part-time
- Self-employed full-time
- Part-time employment within organisation/company
- Full-time employment within organisation/company

l: income
t: radio
q: How would you describe your income level?
- For my age group, below average UK income
- For my age group, average UK income
- For my age group, above average UK income

l: region
t: radio
q: What type of area do you live in?
- City
- Sub-urban
- Rural