Survey research is a unique way to gather valuable information from a large group. Crafting a survey is not always easy - potentially taking days or even weeks of writing, rewriting, and collecting responses. All that time is worth it though because a well-crafted survey curates meaningful results that will drive your project forward at the speed of light. On the other hand, vague questions lead to vague responses. What a disappointment it would be to spend so much time and energy to not have any usable data in return.
Save time, energy and $$$ with our top 5 best practices to gather powerful results:
1. Define a S.M.A.R.T goal.
What does a smart goal look like? Well, it probably wears glasses and a lab coat. Other than that it is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Say you want to understand why residents are less engaged this year? Instead of using a broad goal like: “I want to better understand resident engagement” try something like “I want to understand how COVID-19 influenced event attendance in the past 6 months.”
Once you’ve come up with your SMART goal, you can use it as a reference to prioritize the most relevant questions. Other than demographics, every question needs to play a part in defining your big picture goal. If it helps, try comparing your goal to each question to see if one potentially answers the other.
2. Order your questions like you would for an interview.
Flow. Is. Everything.
If you were to ask someone all of your survey questions during an interview, would they make sense in that order? To prevent drop off it’s important to start light and save the more personal, demographic questions for the end. Asking important, objective questions first limits decision fatigue. Grouping similar questions on the same page permits each train of thought to stay on track.
3. Don’t let your survey drag on, and on, and on, and on...
Residents will often want to contribute to your survey but they also lead very busy lives. What better way to respect their time than by only taking up what you need? You’ll be rewarded with a higher completion rate and more meaningful responses.
One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by making sure every question is necessary. Consider the following - Would your question be better suited to a different survey? Are you basically asking the same thing twice? Three times? If so, its time to prune out some dead questions. Skip logic (discussed in tip #5) is another great way to ensure everyone only sees the questions that relate to them. As a rule of thumb its best to aim at 5 minutes or less, but 6-10 is acceptable.
4. Focus on questions you can draw statistics from.
The best questions are easy for respondents to answer and provide you with quantitative data to use in your analysis. We’re talking about close-ended questions that use pre-populated answer choices. Answer choices should be exhaustive to ensure the extrapolated data is not misrepresented. For example, if you ask “How did you feel about our online event compared to last year’s in-person event?” and only provide “I enjoyed it” “I did not enjoy it” as options respondents may feel confused, not answer, or answer incorrectly. It’s best to provide a spectrum of balanced options including “I somewhat enjoyed it” or “I did not attend”. You could also use a scale for this question that can be converted into points-based data later on.
In contrast, open-ended questions ask the respondent to provide feedback in their own words. These require more time to answer, so try to limit them to 1-2 at the end of your survey.
5. Use Logic.
A masterfully effective survey only asks respondents the questions they can relate to. Using skip logic saves time and also prevents skewed data by asking qualifier questions before presenting one or more follow-up questions based on the answer. The best skip logic seamlessly works in the background.
For example, “Have you travelled out of the country in the past month?” would be the qualifying question. If the respondent answers “yes” the follow-up question could say “Have you quarantined for 14 days in line with COVID-19 regulations?”. If the respondent answers “no” they would skip to the next section of the survey without seeing other travel-related questions.
Complementary questions are a great way to dive deeper into an answer without overwhelming a single question.
For example, “Did you enjoy our online event?”. If the respondent answers “no” you could provide a list of checkbox response options with the question “What could have made the event better? Please select all that apply”.
BONUS TIP: Ask a Professional
Generating a survey and finding qualified participants can be overwhelming. We have countless resources to make sure your next survey goes off without a hitch!