WEB & TECH / NOV. 11, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Create an Effective Survey

One of the best ways of getting people’s views about specific topics is through surveys. For instance, you can use surveys to get people’s opinion of a new product or to evaluate the mood of your team regarding a new policy. However, carrying out a survey is not simply about writing down some questions and getting people to answer them. A lot of planning is necessary for a successful survey.

Here are some guidelines for planning a survey:

1. Establish your goals

What information do you want from the recipients? This is the first question you need to ask yourself when planning a survey. Are your predicting future needs or evaluating attitudes? Do you want people’s views or satisfaction ratings? Knowing clearly what you want to achieve will enable you to focus your questions.

2. Identify the target population

Decide who you are going to survey. Is it job applicants, potential customers, suppliers or employees? Make sure the target population is accessible and able to provide the answers you are looking for. However, you need to be alert to the element of bias. For instance, if your target is former employees of an organization, you are likely to receive more negative than positive responses. This is because they might have left the organization on bad terms.

3. Choose your sample size

Think about the amount of responses you would need to get the insight you require. If you have a larger sample, you are likely to reach a more solid conclusion. However, if you survey too many people, you might be overwhelmed when it comes to processing and analyzing responses.

4. Select the survey method

Your survey method will be influenced by the budget and time available. Here are a few options for your consideration:

  • Mail – This is easy to administer as well as cost effective. Respondents are free to complete and submit the surveys at their own time. The main disadvantage of mail surveys is that people are likely to ignore them. In addition, you don’t get the opportunity to clarify the questions.
  • One-on-one – The best thing about this method is that you can easily clarify questions. However, person to person interviews take a lot of time to administer. In addition, they can be very expensive.
  • Internet – Online surveys have become increasingly popular in the modern age. Such surveys are not only inexpensive, but can also be very interactive. In addition, it allows you to reach people in different locations. The main downside of internet surveys is that they limit you to respondents that have internet access.

5. Decide your survey length

Think about the number of questions you would like to ask. Avoid the temptation of including questions just for the sake of it. Make sure each question contributes to the achievement of your goal. You should also realize that the length of your survey will influence the responses. If it is too lengthy, people are likely to get bored and abandon it halfway. On the other hand, a survey which is too short might not provide sufficient information.

6. Select the types of questions

You can choose between ranking, multiple choice, true/false or open answer questions. The type of questions chosen will determine the time it takes to analyze the results. Simple limited choice or multiple choice questions are the easiest to interpret.

Taking into consideration all these aspects of planning will make it easier for you to create your survey questions and create an effective survey that should give you the information that you need.

Image: iStock

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