Surveys are a research tool designed to gather specific information from large groups of people. Depending on the sample size of people and the questions asked, surveys can sometimes be quantified and used for statistical analysis. Use surveys to learn perspectives from a wide range of people.

Click on the diagram below to learn the seven steps for conducting effective surveys.

How to Conduct Surveys for Research

  1. Determine Participants
    Determine who you think will provide you the most important information. Consider the demographics of the people you want to ask to learn about a particular attitude, perspective, belief, behavior, or characteristic. Determine how many people in this demographic will be necessary to ask to make an effective decision and if you’ll be able to draw statistical conclusions based on the number of responses.

  2. Identify Platform(s) & Distribution Method
    Review your budget and possible distribution channels. Is this a survey that can distributed for free, created on a platform like SurveyMonkey and sent through social media? Is this something you would send in an email to people in your database? Or is this something that should go through a paid service or agency? The bigger the scope and the more the questions, the more likely you’ll need to move to a paid service. Most simple surveys can be done for free and distributed on social media and in emails.

  3. Develop Questions
    Write questions that will give you the most useful responses. Be careful not to ask leading questions. Some types of questions include:
    +Closed (multiple choice with only one option)
    +Open (multiple choice with multiple options)
    +Likert (gives options for a scale, such as “never,” “sometimes,” and “always”
    +Free response (allows written answers)
    +Request (asks for suggests or questions)

  4. Distribute Survey
    Send the survey to the people you determined through the channels you identified. Be sure to let respondents know in advance three things:1. Why you’re conducting the survey and/or why they should care.
    2. How long the survey will take
    3. When they need to have it completed by.Keep survey relatively short (the less time it takes, the higher the response rate you will usually get.) Send reminders if necessary.

  5. Analyze Data
    Collect all survey responses and determine how many of people responded. Make connections between responses, looking for patterns, trends, and other insightful information. If your survey sample was large enough and the responses merit quantifying the results, do a statistical analysis.

  6. Generate Hypothesis
    Once you have analyzed your data and made connections about attitudes and behaviors, you are in a position to hypothesize what your participants think or feel. Your hypothesis isn’t a conclusion, but rather a statement that will likely draw more specific questions. Surveys are best used in combination with other research methods, since the subject responses aren’t usually a great measure on their own of actual, generalizable data.

  7. Conduct Further Research
    Surveys are great additions to a body of research but they rarely should be used on their own as decision-making research. Surveys lead researchers to ask even more pointed questions, establishing ideas for more detailed questionnaires, observation methods, usability tests, interviews, polls, and other metrics.

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