Turn a Good Survey into a Great Survey

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The 4 Elements that Make a Great Survey

No matter what industry you are in – business, education, healthcare – you will use surveys as an important tool to collect respondent data. Any industry can benefit from conducting surveys. A great survey solution is advanced survey software. Businesses use survey software to create marketing surveys, product surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, employee satisfaction surveys, and many more. Educators use survey software to create student surveys, course evaluations, and can even create and administer student assessments. And those in healthcare can use survey software to administer patient satisfaction surveys, health assessments, and other health-related surveys. In many advanced survey software solutions, mobile applications are available to administer on mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones, and tablet PCs.

No matter what objectives the researcher has for a survey, results are only reliable and valid if the survey questions are prepared and administered correctly and in the proper survey mode. Some surveys are poorly written or they are targeted to the wrong audience, generating inaccurate data. Here are a few tips for designing surveys and developing survey questions.

Survey Research

As with any important project, it is necessary to do thorough research. It is important to plan every step of your survey project through the development of a survey project plan before attempting to develop a survey. One of the most important places to start is to define your target audience. If your target audience is more specialized, it is not a good idea to administer a survey to an audience that has not been qualified. When defining your target audience, ensure that you select respondents with the characteristics that would be willing to take your survey. Those respondents who care about your company or organization, or your products or services will be more likely to participate in your survey and provide truthful, meaningful data.

Survey Design 

Be sure to value your respondents’ time. You are asking respondents for their time to complete your survey. In many instances, there is no reason why they should take part in your survey. They are doing you a favor, so keep it short. A well thought out survey tells respondents that you value what they have to say.

It may seem obvious, but when designing your survey, look at the design and wording of the questions from the respondents’ perspective. For example, jargon used within an organization can sneak its way into a questionnaire, which has no meaning at all to your respondents.

It may be tempting to dive right into survey design. However, there’s a temptation to keep on adding questions because it would be nice to know, or you think it might be interesting to know the answers. Before you know it, the survey balloons in size, and you will need to think about, do we really need to ask this or is it simply nice to know? If your survey begins to seem irrelevant or too long to respondents, you may find your completion rates decrease. As a general rule of thumb, an online survey should generally take no longer than 15 minutes; however, there will be exceptions to that rule. Be sure to inform respondents up-front approximately how long the survey will take to complete. They should be given the choice as to whether they want to invest their time to complete your survey or not.

There are a variety of question types, including: single-response, multiple-response, open-ended questions, and grid questions. The choice of questions, question styles, and overall design can potentially make or break your survey. Avoid ambiguous, leading and contentious questions. Leading questions may suggest to the respondent how you expect the question answered and ambiguous questions can be confusing.

When designing surveys, consider using image questions, which use pictures or graphics to describe survey questions and answers – making the experience fun for respondents. However, image questions, if used too often or designed poorly, can become intolerable.

Take careful consideration into survey design. Consider hiring a third party survey design expert who can help you with your design. Using a third party expert is also a good way to administer your survey. Respondents may feel more self-assured answering questions truthfully if they know the person reading or listening to responses is impartial.

Survey Administration

There are several different ways to administer surveys, known as multi-mode surveys, including: online surveys, mobile surveys, e-mail survey, tablet surveys, and social media surveys to name a few. Online surveys and email surveys have certainly become the most popular survey method. Traditional survey methods, which are still used to reach target audiences, include: paper surveys, direct mail surveys, telephone surveys, and face-to-face interview surveys.

Consider conducting a pre-test of your survey. A pre-test gives you an overview of what others think of your survey. Pre-testing respondents can provide feedback on the overall design of the survey, as well as feedback on survey question and instruction wording. Additionally, you can see how long it takes respondents to complete your survey.

Survey Analysis

You have successfully run your survey – now how can you make your data work harder for you?

In advanced survey software, results from multi-mode surveys can be easily combined to give overall results. These can be reported as overall responses, or broken down to show differences between response types.

Think about what results are important to your survey objectives. If simple frequency tables, graphs, and charts are enough, then conducting and analyzing the results yourself may be sufficient. However, you may want to understand standard deviation, correlation, and chi tests within your survey results. Using an advanced survey software solution may be in your best interest. Advanced survey software solutions enable you to conduct simple to more complex analysis, all within one software package.

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