Surveys are one of the most common methodological processes used today. They’re easy, relatively quick, and consist only of people’s opinions. This means there’s no need to try to tease out deep psychological feelings and forces. Knowing all this, it sounds like a breeze to create and conduct one. Let’s learn more about the steps to putting together a quality survey below.
The problem that arises though isn’t in creating a survey, but creating a usable, useful one. This consists of four key steps, each of which deserve their own attention and consideration. The first and possibly most important step is to plan the survey. One of the biggest differences between a successful and failed survey is how well this step was done. There will always be errors and mishaps in any survey, but the more planning the less common those are.
A Look at the 5 W’s
An easy way to conceive of planning is with the five W’s. Why is the research being done? What questions should be asked to achieve the why? Who’s taking the survey? Where is it happening? And when will it be conducted? Answering all these questions keeps the process clear and direct.
The next step is a continuation of the first, it is question synthesis. Now that the survey has a backbone, what will be the actual content? Here the way questions are worded and posed becomes essential. It’s easier than one would think to lead participants to specific answers or to make assumptions. If the survey is about a specific product, the question should not ask how much the consumer enjoys it. Rather the question should be how the consumer would more generally rate it.
Setting up the Data
Small differences in questions like this make big differences in the validity and reliability of the data. Although before the data is analyzed it must be collected. This is the third step. Assuming all has gone well, this is the most simple step. For bigger surveys testing may be helpful, but generally with good planning this will be a smooth step.
Finally, arguably the most important step is analysis and reporting. Now that all the work is done and the data is collected, it must be made useful. If this step is done improperly even the best surveys won’t amount to anything practical. Although a lot of time the data will be imperfect in one way or another. It’s within this step that revisiting data collection or even planning can be appropriate.
Fortunately, that usually won’t be necessary. So assuming everything has gone relatively smoothly, it’s time to analyze. This is the most technical step, requiring experience with tech, analysis, statistics, and formatting. Some companies opt to outsource this type of work, especially for smaller and less formal teams. Now with the data organized it must be displayed. Data displays are going to vary greatly depending on what it’s being used for. Although generally knowing how to create visible and easy to understand graphs will be essential here.
Now with all that done, the survey can be called a success. At the end of the day the data collected can’t be helped. Sometimes it’s not what is wanted, and sometimes there are no real results at all. Although following these steps will ensure that the survey is conducted honestly, smoothly, and fairly.