How to Design a Survey
The key to quality data is the survey design. Here are some of the key elements and considerations in designing an effective survey.
Survey Design

How many times a day do you receive a call or an email asking you to complete a survey? From public opinion polling to customer satisfaction surveys, surveys are happening everywhere. The issue, however, is the over-saturation of surveys that are not research based. Many organizations are attempting to save money by designing their own survey in-house or writing their own questions. As a survey research firm with years of experience in survey design and statistical analysis, we can tell you that there is a science behind survey design—the key to quality data is the survey design.

While we always recommend hiring experts to assist in your survey design needs, we understand that sometimes funding is limited. The purpose of this blog is to provide you with some key elements of survey design.

Before designing a survey instrument, you must determine the purpose of this survey. Regardless of what type of organization (nonprofit, for profit, government agency), determining the purpose of the survey is very important. For example, are you trying to measure impact and outcome of a program that is implemented? Or, are you trying to measure employee satisfaction? Knowing the purpose of your survey helps you determine the type of questions to include in the survey instrument.

A few questions to think about in terms of designing a survey instrument:

  • What is the purpose of your survey?
  • Who is your target audience? What is your sampling frame?
  • How and when will the final survey be disseminated (web-based, phone-based, etc.)? Cross-sectional or longitudinal?

A few things to remember when designing a survey:

  • Each question serves a purpose
  • Each additional question adds time and cost
  • Each additional question adds burden to the respondent

If you decide to approach experts to design and implement your survey, a few things to consider:

  • What is your overall budget for this survey? Understanding your budget helps us recommend the most cost-efficient method for your project—from the length of your survey to the mode of data collection.
  • What type of questions are a must ask for your organization/agency? For example, beyond the main purpose of the survey, some organizations and agencies have certain questions that they need to ask to report to their stakeholders.
  • Will you need data analyzed and reported at the end of data collection?

Survey design and implementation takes time and should be a collaborative process between the client (organization, agency, etc.) and the survey methodologist and, if possible, the data analyst. This way, the intent of the survey instrument is captured, and the reporting aspect is planned for in advance.

At Survey Information Analytics, we guide our clients through every step—from survey design to data collection to final reporting/presentation. Don’t hesitate to contact us for your survey design and implementation needs.