A survey is an ordered series of questions or statements assessing attitudes, behaviors, or personal characteristics that is administered to individuals in a systematic manner. Surveys may be administered in a variety of mediums (e.g., paper, oral, electronic) using various delivery methods (e.g., face-to-face, telephone, mail, Internet).
Types of surveys
With the growth of the Internet and e-mail, electronic surveys are becoming more widely used. They can be distributed by paper, as e-mail messages, or posted as forms on the Internet (e.g., Blackboard and Ongoing Course Assessment System (OCA)). Both paper and electronic surveys have strengths and weaknesses.
Suggested uses of surveys:
- Gaining insight into user attitudes, satisfaction, and outcomes about the technology.
- Measuring the effects of an instructional technology when used as part of a single-group experiment.
Limitations of surveys:
- Not suitable for collecting in-depth information.
- Requires some knowledge or understanding of relevant issues in order to write appropriate questions and properly organize a survey.
A moderate level of knowledge about survey design and question writing is required unless you are using previously validated questions or surveys. You should also understand how to use and interpret basic statistics (e.g. frequencies, means, weighting), and have experience or training in constructing and using spreadsheets databases (for very large surveys). Data entry may be time consuming, requiring additional staff, although using scanable answer sheets or an electronic survey tool will greatly reduce the knowledge, training, and time required to enter and analyze survey responses. [more]
Plan your survey
STEP 1. Describe the instructional technology and context
Include the purpose of the instructional technology: the need it addresses, its expected effects, current resources, and resources needed to implement. Describe the users (education, motivation, skill levels), learning objectives in relation to the technology, and the learning context. A worksheet is available to help you through this step.
STEP 2. Identify stakeholder needs and develop central questions
Central questions identify what you and the stakeholders would want to learn through the survey. For example, "What features do instructors like about webcasting?" A worksheet is available to help you identify stakeholder needs and develop central questions.
STEP 3. Determine the purpose of the survey
A survey should have a clear purpose and focus. Avoid the temptation of asking too many questions in a single survey or surveying users "just to see what's going on." Using your central questions as a guide, specify how your survey will help you gain insight, change course practices, or measure the effects of the instructional technology. A worksheet is available to help you develop and refine your study’s purposes.
STEP 4. Determine how you will use the results
How you intend to use results should also guide the content of your survey. If the answer to a survey question will not assist your instructional technology assessment, leave the question out. A worksheet is available to help exemplify how to use results after determining the purpose of a study.
STEP 5. Create the survey
Write survey questions
Determine question type
Organize and format the survey
The survey format is very important because a poorly organized survey may confuse respondents and cause them to skip questions or not complete the survey.
Conduct pilot testing
Test the survey on a small sample of individuals that resembles your target sample (but does not include it) to check if the questions are answered as you intended and how long it takes to complete the survey. Revise questions as necessary before administering them to the study sample.
Babbie, E.R. (1973). Survey research methods. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Bordens, K.S. and Abbott, B.B. (1996). Research Design and Methods: A Process Approach. 3rd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.
Punch, K. F. (2003). Survey research: The basics. London: Sage Publications Ltd.