How to Do Excellent Survey Research

The purpose of any survey is to:

  • Collect primary data from a large sample of respondents and use it to determine the patterns of their
    • Behavior
    • Attitudes
    • Opinions
    • Perceptions
    • Values and beliefs
  • Collect systematic data from a large sample of participants to monitor changes in their
    • Demographics
    • Population characteristics
    • Role and impacts on various phenomena and styles

How to Collect Survey Data

You can choose among several different types of surveys, including

  • Face-to-face surveys
  • Telephone surveys
  • Paper and pencil surveys
  • Web-based surveys

How to Design Survey Questions

What does it mean to have effective and clear survey questions?

It means that each and every question in your survey is simple, understandable, and neutral. In other words, it does not touch any sensitive aspects of respondents’ lives and does not abuse them in any way. A good survey question addresses one issue at a time. A perfect survey contains few substantive questions that do not cause any redundancy or confusion among respondents.

How can survey questions be formatted?

Two different formats can be used: 1) Close-ended or forced and 2) open-ended.  Feel free to combine these two types of questions in the same survey.

What are the examples of open-ended and close-ended or forced survey questions?

Imagine that you want to survey the patterns of healthcare service and insurance utilization among adults:

  • An example of a forced question:
    • "Do you call your insurance provider before you go to the hospital?"
      • Yes"  or "No" (You force your respondents into choosing between the two answer options)
    • "How often do you come in touch with your insurance provider while using healthcare services?"
      • "Never", "Seldom", "Sometimes", "Quite often", "Always"(You force your respondents into choosing one of the existing answers)
  • An example of an open-ended question:
    • "In the past two months, how many times did you seek medical help and how many times did you contact your insurance provider?"(Your respondents are free to enter any number of words to answer the question.) 
    • "Please tell me why you would or would not like to communicate with your insurance provider." (Your respondents have absolute freedom to answer the question in any possible way).

How to order survey questions?

Ordering matters. This is why it is so important to arrange and organize all survey questions logically and professionally. Begin with the easiest questions and move gradually toward the most challenging and sensitive ones. Remember that even if you receive 90 percent of completed surveys, some of them may lack proper answers.

How to do perfect survey research?

  • Invite your respondents: Write down an interesting and respectful invitation, which will engage your respondents and motivate them to answer the questions in your survey form. Tell your respondents what the goal of your study is and how you plan to use its results.
  • Disclosure:
    • Include the number of questions your respondents will need to answer
    • Provide confidentiality and anonymity guarantees
    • Give your respondents voluntary choice to participate or not to participate
    • Include your contact information
  • Pretesting: Before you use your survey in research, organize a pilot study to test its effectiveness.