One of the trickiest aspects of survey research is keeping tabs on all the needed tasks once responses start pouring in. An organized researcher can maximize their productivity and diminish the likelihood of surveying errors by using the following five organization principles:
Determine a Method for Transcribing or Importing Response Data
Survey researchers can quickly discover how cumbersome it is to begin processing survey response data once it pours in. In this day and age of accessible spreadsheets and familiarity with research data, taking for granted the difficulty of importing data into a manipulative format is all too common.
To prevent this problem, a methodology should be described in advance. This methodology should be established early on in your research design, and researchers should begin testing it out before opening the survey to respondents. Determine a workflow that can ensure accurate capture of survey responses with minimal risk of recording errors. Then, test out that workflow to see how it could be handled at scale.
You can also begin to decide how to arrange the data based on demographics or other factors. If you need ideas for how to arrange the data in this way, examine your hypothesis or research question. If your question is something like “Do higher income levels use X luxury product more often?” your data table will be arranged with income levels on one axis and with percentages of “often,” “never” and such responses on the other. Keep in mind that you can use multiple demographic criteria to describe the same responses.
Make Copies of Data Files Before Doing Any Major Changes
Spreadsheets can be frustrating and opaque. A few innocent clicks of a mouse could suddenly break your beautiful data table arrangements. To prevent this issue from happening, have redundant backup copies before making major changes like rearranging the data or importing a large quantity of responses. With more copies, any mistakes or incidents are not permanent.
Organize Your Survey into Sections
Handling large volumes of data can be difficult, but breaking down the volume into discrete subjects or question types can make it all more manageable. As a bonus, survey respondents are more likely to complete a section when they see they have a discrete amount of questions left. Use this factor to your advantage by placing the most important sections first. You can also intersperse question types that require less thought, such as “strongly agree/disagree” formats, with questions that require more reading focus, such as lengthier multiple choice options.
Categorize Questions in General
A good survey design practice is to use two questions that essentially ask the same thing. This redundancy will rule out indecisive respondents or questions that have a strong bias. Mark each of these grouped questions with a label in order to quickly compile them later. This practice is especially useful if multiple survey sections have similar question topics.
Start with a Good Design
A survey ends up being only as strong as its questions. Our Free Guide to Survey Design Best Practices can help prevent common hurdles from holding back the success of your survey.