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Checklist for Survey Design

This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.

  • Collaborate with those closest to your target audience in the design of the survey. For example, in designing a survey for high school seniors, consider including some seniors—as well as their teachers—on your design and/or review team.
  • Clearly define the purpose(s) of the survey before you begin to generate the questions.
  • Take into consideration the resources you have for analysis of data in determining the length and complexity of the survey. You may have a number of important key questions to address but limited resources for analyzing your data and drawing conclusions. Prioritize your questions and match the survey to your resources.
  • Use close-ended questions (check-off lists, yes/no or scaled answers) whenever possible. Open-ended questions (fill in the blank) can provide rich information, but are often difficult to interpret and time-consuming to analyze.
  • Consider your survey audience when determining the length of the survey. For example, students can get bored and lose focus quickly with longer surveys.
  • Spend time on layout. It can make a large difference in whether you get a high return rate. And if your audience misunderstands questions because of poor design, that data becomes worthless.
  • Set aside time and resources for follow-up to ensure a reasonable return rate. This can involve phone calls, visits and, if necessary, re-surveying an audience. Remember the higher your response rate, the more meaningful the data.
  • Whenever possible, "pilot" the survey by giving it a test run. This can be done informally with a small group of the targeted audience. Even a handful of respondents can provide invaluable information on survey design and save you significant time and energy later in data analysis and interpretation.

Connected Learning Communities: A Toolkit for Reinventing High School, Tool 6.3, page 132. Developed by Jobs for the Future and the U.S. Department of Education's former New American High Schools Initiative

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