8 Steps to Implementing an Excellent Survey

A survey is a form of art: carefully crafted to reveal truth.#1: Determine Objectives

As an inquisitive person, I understand the allure of wanting to ask as many questions as possible. However, if we want our participants to be respectful of our surveys, we must first be respectful of their time. Once you determine your objectives, you can use them to take out the “fluff” or unnecessary questions from your survey and make sure your survey is complete.

#2: Explore Potential Question Wording

Not everyone will interpret a question in the manner you intended, nor can you anticipate how they would prefer to word their answers. However, there are ways to explore how your target audience will interpret your questions. Basically, ask them. Start out by interviewing a few different people. Don’t just try out the questions on them, also ask them to rephrase the questions to make sure you are on the same page.

#3: Write Out the Questions

Once you’ve explored how target audience will react to the wording of your questions, finalize your questions. Reword any of the questions that start with “why.” Why? Why puts people on guard and leads to the reasoning people come up with to justify their decisions. Most likely you want to know the factors that lead to their decision, not the reasoning they come up with necessarily. Take for instance, “why did you choose to go to college?” versus “what factors lead to choose to go to college?” The answers will be completely different. If you’re researching ways to encourage students to go to college, which question would lead to the information you need? Most likely it won’t be a question that starts with “why.”

#4: Add Demographics Questions

Once you have the questions for your study solidified, add in demographic questions so you can better understand any trends or outliers. Make sure these questions are at the end of your survey. Studies on SAT results have shown that asking demographic questions (especially questions on race) before the SATs negatively effected students’ performances on the test. Unless you are studying the effects of cultural identity, keeping demographic questions at the end will provide more accurate results.

#5: Test Smaller Population

Now that you have a complete survey, take it for a test run. Go ask a few people to try it out and provide them with the opportunity to not only fill out the survey but to also provide feedback. Revise accordingly.

#6: Implement on Larger Scale

Congratulations, now you’ve mastered your survey. Time to implement it on a larger scale. Here are the questions you’ll have to consider going forward:

-Would more people answer authentically online or by paper?
– What would encourage your target population to fill out the survey? Payment? A drawing towards certain type of prize perhaps?
– What is your budget?
– How much time can you spend on implementing your survey?
– How can you fit the ideal (the answer to the first two questions) within the practical (the answer to the last two questions)?

#7: Analyze According to Objectives

You’ve done all the legwork, and you’ve gathered the data. Now it’s time to reap the fruits of your labor by analyzing your data. There are several ways to analyze your survey data, but however you choose to analyze your data, make sure it stays within your original objectives.

#8: Explore Other Results

Even though you have reached your objectives, don’t be afraid to look at your data in other ways as well. Some of the most important findings in history started out as accidents. Perhaps there are more correlations in your data beyond your original intent.