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Your To-Do List: Top 10 Tips for Survey Success

Your To-Do List: Top 10 Tips for Survey Success

To do listThe holiday season is right around the corner, which means that it’s also time for another kind of season…wait for it… To-Do List Season. You’ve got lists for groceries for your big holiday meal, lists for who to buy gifts for, and of course, there’s a pretty famous holiday jingle all about making a list (and checking it once? At least twice?)

Okay, joking aside, obviously lists aren’t just used during the holidays and can be helpful in many contexts. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and author, has even written a bestselling book on the value of lists within the context of an operating room, and also in daily life. Lists can help prevent large errors and also make people more efficient.

So let’s apply the principles of a holiday checklist to survey creation. A survey checklist is most helpful when you’re about to send out your survey to your respondents. Before you send out your survey, make sure it’s in tip-top shape for public consumption by going through these 10 to-do items.

1. Introduction

An introduction is a great way to set the tone of your survey and thank your respondents, so don’t forget to have one. A simple sentence will do. If you already have an introduction, make sure it isn’t too long. A long, text-heavy intro turns off respondents, and they may be less likely continue on with the survey.

2. Read the survey through the eyes of the respondent

Survey creators often agonize over the content in their survey and have their heads buried so deep in the questionnaire that they often forget to make the survey relatable to their respondents. So make sure that you aren’t using jargon (vocabulary that you are familiar with, but your respondents may not be), check that you’re using simple language that can be interpreted easily, and make sure that the question itself is something that respondents can answer.

3. Double check your answer options

Are you providing all possible answer options to your questions or are you forgetting a “Not applicable” option? By not offering all possible answer options, your respondents may feel like they are forced to randomly pick an answer option to your question, giving you bad data.

Are you using scales? If so, are you consistently using the same number of scale points throughout your whole survey? If one of your questions only has four points, but the other has five, you may be losing an opportunity to compare that question with others.

4. Check for typos

Make sure to check for any spelling or grammatical mistakes. One tip on how to do that: read the survey aloud to yourself!

5. Pages

Give your respondents a mental breather by adding in pages to your survey. Often survey creators have 10 or more questions on a page and respondents don’t have time to give their brains a rest, making it more likely for them to have survey fatigue.

But there is a fine line here, make sure you don’t have too many pages either. Each question doesn’t need to be on its own page (unless you’re using skip logic of course) and having too many pages makes it hard for people who are responding on smartphones.

6. Skip logic

Check all possible paths of your skip logic. Sometimes we accidentally make mistakes in the programming and skip respondents to the wrong page that my loop them in an “infinite loop” so there is no way “out” of the survey.

7. Randomization

Did you use randomization in your survey? Great, it is a good way of getting rid of order bias. But make sure you check the randomization. Sometimes survey creators forget to anchor the last option (by not clicking “Don’t randomize last choice”) or think that they randomized something, when they actually didn’t.

If you don’t have randomization in your survey—think about whether your survey could benefit from it. Many can.

8. Email content and subject line

If you are emailing out a link to your survey or using our Email Collector, make sure that the content of your email is appropriate. This is often the first time that you interact with your survey respondent, so make sure to make a good impression. Also, try sending out a few test emails to make sure that the content of your email or the subject line doesn’t get caught in people’s spam box.

9. Preview and test your survey

One of the most important steps to check off is previewing the survey. When you preview, keep items one through seven in mind. Time how long it takes you to finish. If it takes too long, you’ll need to cut some questions. Also make sure to time it and preview the survey on a mobile device. Surveys look different if you are on a desktop/latop, tablet, or smartphone. Surveys even look different on Android and iOS smartphones.

Next, have a friend or colleague who hasn’t worked on the survey to preview it. They can give you a sense of whether it is too long and also catch mistakes that you may have missed.

10. Pat yourself on the back

You did it, you’ve got a great survey. Now congratulate yourself, send it out to your responses and watch those responses come rolling in. So before you send out your next survey, make sure all of these items are checked off.

Questions for Sarah Cho, our Survey Pro? Leave them for her below and don’t forget to check out her other great tips from our Google+ Office Hours!

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