5 key steps in constructing your paper or online survey

Constructing a survey whether it’s paper, telephone or web based, is more than just writing the questions.

1. The first and most important thing you must do is have a plan based on the following questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Do I have the expertise and resources?
  • What decisions am I trying to inform?
  • What am I trying to measure?  Attitudes? Experiences? Behavior? Intentions? Perceptions?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • Should I use paper or an online survey?
  • What kind of statistics do I want to come out of this project (e.g. descriptive or inferential statistics)?
  • What will my analysis look like?
  • How will I communicate the survey findings?

2. Based on your answers to the above  you now need to focus on the specific elements of the questionnaire in the context of whether it’s a paper or web based questionnaire.

  • Identify research question: This needs to be objective and specific (e.g. Why does practice B have significantly higher missed appointments than practice A?)
  • Operationalise the research question: There are TWO key  steps in operationalisation the research question:
    a. Formulating Concepts into Variables i.e Define Variables that will measure your Concepts i.e. “missed appointments”
    b. Formulating Variables into Measures i.e. Define measures for the variables. E.g. 3 or more missed appointments per patient over X period of time.

Once the research question has been operationalised you need to:

3. Identify coverage and general content to answer the specific research question. For example. there might be a difference between patients with chronic and acute health problems in terms of missed appointments. You therefore, need  questions in the survey to measure this variable and others related to research question.

4. Construct the survey:

  • Keep the questionnaire as brief and concise as possible – 20 minutes max to complete.
  • Select the appropriate question format e.g. single and multiple choice, rating, ranking)
  • Place response options in progressive order – from lower to higher
  • Avoid ambiguity and complex questions
  • Use filtering questions sparingly
  • Use open-ended questions sparingly
  • Divide long surveys into sections
  • Write an introduction to the survey
  • Place personal and confidential questions at the end of the questionnaire

5. Get feedback from the initial field test (pretest). Undertake a small field test with typical respondents and revise questions as necessary.


 

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