How to make a small survey study?

iStock_000008342060XSmall.jpgUsing a survey study – even a small one – can give you knowledge about the thoughts, opinions and habits of a larger group of people that you could attain using other methods (interviews, observations, etc.). Survey studies enable you to gather information in a consistent manner, because all the respondents answer the same questions.

What you need to do: 
  • Designing the questionnaire: Your question should include not only the actual questions you are interested in, but also some background questions about the respondent (age, gender etc.). You have to be very thorough when designing your questionnaire, because the respondents have to understand the questions without your explanations. The questionnaire should have an “easy-to-fill” appearance and the wording should be clear and understandable. Be selective about your questions: don’t ask too much! It might help you if you could take look at some other, similar questionnaires. And you should definitely test your questionnaire before you send it your respondents (use colleagues, friends etc.).
  • Choosing the respondents: The respondents should, of course, be the people whose opinions you’re interested in. You can’t always reach all those people, so you have to choose a sample that would represent your target group as well as possible. Make sure that your sample has the right proportion of men and women, people of different age, wealth etc., compared to the overall target group. You should also try to make sure that not only people who are enthusiastic about your project respond. If the response rate (share of sent questionnaires returned) is very low, it is likely that only the enthusiastic people have responded.
  • Distribution of the questionnaire: If you have a large number of respondents, you should distribute the questionnaires by mail or e-mail. You’ll get more questionnaires returned, if you enclose a postage-paid return envelope with the letter. Electronic questionnaires could be easier and cheaper in some cases, because they allow you to enter the responses straight to the application you’re using to analyze your data (if you are using one), and also save postal costs. For a short questionnaire, you can also consider handing them out and collecting them at a public event.
  • Analysis: It is not sufficient just to collect the answers from you respondents, you have to also analyze them. The easiest and most common ways to analyze questionnaire responses is to calculate the percentages, means or cross tabulations of each question. You can use Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice Calc, or other similar spreadsheet applications doing this.
When does it work?: 
  • Surveys are more suited to situations where you have a pretty good understanding of the situations and environments that you’re working in. That helps you to formulate the right questions and also the possible answering options.
What do you need to look out for: 
  • If you’re entering a field that is relatively new to you, you might do better with interviews, focus groups or field observations, because then you can ask the respondents to specify their answers.