Creating a Survey

Surveys can help when deciding what changes are needed, what problems there might be, where money should be spent, what services people want, or lots of other questions you may have. They can be used to help answer questions on any subject!

Before you put pen to paper, be clear about what you want to learn from the survey. This might seem very obvious, but you must have your objective clear before you design your survey. Otherwise, the results will probably be unclear and all of your work could end up being a waste of time!

Here are seven basic steps to conducting a successful survey.

  1. Write down your objective
  2. Select your target group
  3. Decide how to conduct the survey
  4. Create the questions
  5. Ask the questions
  6. Analyse the results
  7. Present the results

When you have your objective clear in your mind, write it down. Write a short paragraph at the top of your survey to explain why you are conducting it. This will encourage people to respond.

2.Select your target group:
Decide what kind of people you want to survey. For example, if you want to know how many school students walk to school, then your target group is obvious.

However, if the survey is not targeted at a specific group of people, each person questioned should be chosen at random. As certain groups will have similar views, such as people of the same age, asking people at random will ensure the results are as accurate as possible. It is also worth keeping a note of how many people refused to take part in the survey.

3.Decide how to conduct the survey:
Think about how you will approach your target group.

Email: If you have a specific target group in mind, for example local business people, you could consider sending them an email. Most people have Internet access and email is quick and free to use. In this case, look up the email addresses and make a list.

Personal: It may be easier to conduct the survey in person if your target group is in the same place. For example, if your target group is school students, you could ask permission to stand at the school entrance and ask people to participate as they arrive/leave.

Web: Another approach is to create a web page survey. Perhaps you could set up a page on your school’s website and invite people to participate by email, or through a newsletter or public announcement. Don’t be tempted to use too many colours or different fonts on a web page survey as this can be distracting.

In all cases, ask your target group to participate, explain clearly why you are conducting the survey, and what benefits it will have. If conducting the survey by email or web page, include instructions on completing and returning the survey.

4.Create the questions:
Keep referring to your objective as you create the questions to make sure you stick to the point. There are two basic types of questions: multiple choice or open-ended. Try to keep the easier questions at the start, such as multiple choice. These can be fun to answer and will encourage people to complete the survey. Of course, you can always include photos or other illustrations in the questions as well!

Try to keep the number of questions low. People will be put off it the survey looks too long so if a question’s not necessary, don’t include it! It’s always a good idea to give an indication of how long it will take to complete at the top of the page.

5.Ask the questions:
Once you have the questions ready, ask them! If you survey a small group, you could ask everyone – this is called a census. If you survey a large group, you won’t be able to question everyone so you must ask a selection. This is called a sample.

6.Analyse the results:
Depending on the number of people surveyed, this can be time consuming! Get a group of friends together to help sort through the completed surveys. Create a spreadsheet on the computer to help you analyse the results.  

5.Present the results:
The results of many surveys can be simply presented in a table, with the title at the top and results listed below. Graphs or charts are another great way to show the information. You could also include a section for people’s comments or opinions and show samples of the more interesting ones from the survey.

One last tip...
To boost the number of responses to your survey, you could consider putting up a small prize as a result from a draw of participants, e.g. box of chocolates. People always like to think they are getting something back for giving their time to a survey.

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