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4 Tips For Creating Successful General Surveys

Jun 29, 2008
Conducting surveys is a powerful tool for businesses, colleges, hospitals and any other entity that interacts with people. Websites use surveys to grasp the perception of visitors. Private schools use surveys to understand the needs and expectations of their students' parents. Magazines use surveys to measure their readers' loyalty and tastes. When designed properly, a survey can yield invaluable data. But, creating successful surveys requires an understanding of how people think, absorb information, process data and communicate. Below, you'll learn 4 tips for creating general surveys that can make the information you gather more valuable.

Tip #1: Choose Words Carefully

Words communicate precise meanings. However, we often take for granted that others will infer our meaning even when we use words incorrectly. When creating a survey, it's imperative that you use precise language. For example, a question about employees' feelings toward a certain office protocol may use "might," "can," or "may" interchangeably. But, these words can imply different meanings to people. Choose the words you include in survey questions carefully.

Tip #2: Eliminate Grey Area For True/False Questions

Using true/false questions can yield interesting data. But, that data may not be useful if the questions are crafted poorly. The key to using true/false questions is to eliminate any grey area. That is, the answer to a question must be either true or false for the answer to have any meaning. There should be no exceptions.

Tip #3: Use Uniformity In Number Scales

Number scales should be a part of most general surveys. They force the respondent to think clearly about their choice. Often, a person's instinctive feeling will prompt them to answer. But, they'll hesitate before making their selection.

When you use number scales throughout your surveys, make sure the scales are the same for each of the questions. For example, if you're going to use a scale from 1 to 5, keep the scale uniform for the entire survey. Plus, if 5 reflects a "positive" choice (attractive, robust, flexible, etc.), keep 5 reserved for positive responses throughout. Uniformity is crucial for number scales to be effective.

Tip #4: Open-Ended Multiple Choice

Multiple choice questions come in different flavors. If you're using closed multiple choice questions (that is, those without an "Other" option), make sure that the questions you're asking can be answered resolutely with one of the choices you've provided. In other words, the answers should address every possibility.

Open-ended multiple choice questions can provide insight that may be otherwise missed. For example, if you're asking customers how they first heard about your business, provide options such as friend or family, website, newspaper advertising and radio ads. But, also allow for the possibility that your customer may have discovered your business through another channel. Provide an "Other" option and ask them to explain. Their response may make you aware of other marketing possibilities for your business.

Leveraging Variety For Survey Success

Effective surveys use a variety of different question types to obtain valuable information. Using a blend of multiple choice, true/false and number scaled questions can encourage a broad spectrum of useful data. Your surveys should include other question types, as well. Demographic questions, constant sum questions and rating scales can all be employed to extract a diverse collection of data. By contrast, using any question type exclusively will usually yield information that isn't well-defined and therefore, of negligible value.

Well-designed surveys require an appreciation for the psychology of how people process information and communicate feedback. Anyone can throw together a mishmash of questions and call it a survey. But, planning a survey that successfully compels useful information that can be leveraged is a discipline that comes from experience, analysis and expert advice.
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Survey Gizmo is a leading provide of online survey tools, check out our website for more great ways to use surveys to enhance your business.
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