August 23, 2009

How to design a valid research survey

survey

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, NGOs, foundations, businesses

Nora G. Barnes

Nora G. Barnes

JD LasicaIs your organization planning to conduct a survey of your membership or a key constituency? Make sure you do it right.

Nora G. Barnes, Ph.D., professor of marketing at the University of Massachusetts and director of its Center for Marketing Research, offered a presentation today at the Society for New Communications Research about how to properly craft a valid research survey.

Nora has designed scores of major surveys, most recently the First Longitudinal Study of Social Media Usage by the Largest US Charities and The Fortune 500 and Blogging: Slow and Steady.

Your survey can be conducted by mail questionnaire, personal interview, “mall intercept,” telephone interview or electronic (online). You should stick to one chief methodology (say, telephone) and then supplement it with another if you wish (say, offer to send the questions by email). Mail questionnaires tend to have a low response rate (less than 5 percent) while she has been getting a 20 to 25 percent response rate using online polling. Providing incentives, such as the chance to win an iPod or Wii, often increases the response rate and thus increases the survey’s validity.

Tips for composing survey questions

  • Keep it clear and concise.
  • No double-barreled questions (keep each question focused on one thing
  • No overlapping categories
  • No vague or ambiguus questions
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