Survey Design: Hints, Tips and Advice

Designing surveys for children

Quantitative surveys can be used with children aged 7 and above but extra care needs to be taken to ensure that questions are understandable and answerable. The golden rule of considering respondents when constructing questions is even more pertinent for children’s surveys. There is an obvious difference in cognitive ability between adults designing the surveys and children completing them; a…

Should you really be using an email survey?

In today’s research world online surveys via email, conducted using customer lists or dedicated research panels, seem to be the default option. Speed, cost and convenience often mean they are the best route but sometimes alternative data collection methods can be superior. Below are some factors to consider before deciding if an online email questionnaire is right for your survey:  …

Think like a fox: Avoiding the direct approach to questionnaire design

The ancient Greek poet Archilochus was attributed with saying “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows just one big thing”. Hedgehogs move slowly and directly to where they want to go, leaving them vulnerable to death caused by predators and motor vehicles. Foxes, on the other hand, move quickly and tend to dart all over the place looking…

To pay or not to pay: using "incentives" in survey research

The use of incentives in research is widespread. Respondents frequently receive something in exchange for giving their views. But often the incentive is a relatively small amount of cash. Nobody ever became a millionaire from completing surveys. Increasing the value of incentives is likely to have a marginal impact on the level of survey response i.e. raising an incentive from £1 to…

Getting properly anchored: How to improve the accuracy of respondent estimates

Generally, humans are bad at making estimates without some form of context. If someone asks us how loud something is we can’t articulate our answer any better than saying something vague like “quite loud”. But ask us to compare two noises and we’ll definitely be able to say which one is louder and even give an estimate by how much…

Don’t show question numbers in online surveys

It’s fairly common to see online surveys with numbers in front of the question text (an example is shown below): Question numbers shouldn’t be shown to respondents. They are irrelevant to them and an added complication. If respondents are routed round questions then question numbers can be missed out and respondents can see themselves going from, for example, Q7 to Q12….

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