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Survey Design and Implementation. Elizabeth C Wells Doctoral Candidate Ag & Extension Education Why do people fill out surveys? What do you want to ask/measure? Accuracy/Survey Error Random Sampling Writing Questions Questionnaire Design

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survey design and implementation

Survey Design and Implementation

Elizabeth C Wells

Doctoral Candidate

Ag & Extension Education

Why do people fill out surveys?

What do you want to ask/measure?

Accuracy/Survey Error

Random Sampling

Writing Questions

Questionnaire Design

Survey Implementation

Telephone, Interview and Internet Surveys


why people fill out surveys
Why People Fill Out Surveys
  • Social Exchange Theory

Theory of human behavior in which actions of individuals are motivated by the return these actions are expected to bring.

Elements of reward, cost and trust

social exchange theory
Social Exchange Theory
  • Rewards

show positive regard

say thank you

ask for advice

support group values

give tangible rewards

make the questionnaire interesting

social exchange theory1
Social Exchange Theory
  • Reduce Social Costs

avoid subordinating language

avoid inconvenience

avoid embarrassment

make it short and easy

minimize requests for personal information

keep requests consistent

social exchange theory2
Social Exchange Theory
  • Establish Trust

provide token of appreciation in advance

sponsorship by legitimate authority

make task appear important

invoke other exchange

constructs and measurement
Constructs and Measurement
  • What do you want to know?
  • What are the variables?
  • How will you measure it?

behavior, attitudes, feelings, demographics

survey error
Survey Error
  • Sampling Error – Who are you sampling?
  • Coverage Error – Does your list include everyone?
  • Measurement Error – Does everyone answer a question the same way?
  • Non-response Error – Why did respondent not answer:

Instrument (whole questionnaire not returned)

Item (question not answered)

non response error
Non Response Error
  • Only an issue if non responders would answer differently and change results

compare early to late respondents

double dip

random sampling
Random Sampling
  • How much sampling error can you tolerate?
  • How large is the population?
  • How varied is the population?
  • How confident do you wish to be about estimates made from the sample?
random sampling chart
Random Sampling - Chart

Pop Size 50/50 split 80/20 split

  • 80 71
  • 132 111
  • 196 153
  • 234 175
  • 260 188

1000 278 198

Sample size for a 95% confidence level

And a + 5% sampling error

random sampling1
Random Sampling

A www site that will generate random numbers which you can use for random selection of participants on a mailing list.

writing questions
Writing Questions
  • Everyone will interpret the same way
  • Respondents are able to respond accurately
  • Respondents are willing to answer
writing questions1
Writing Questions
  • Use simple words
  • Keep it short
  • Be specific
  • Do not talk down
  • Avoid bias
  • Avoid hypothetical questions
  • Use complete sentences
question criteria
Question Criteria
  • Does the question require an answer?

If you fixed dinner last night, did you eat meat as part of that meal?

  • To what extent does the respondent have a ready made and accurate answer?

Are tall people more likely to be elected President?

  • Can respondent accurately recall and report past behavior?

How much television did you watch last month?

question principles
Question Principles
  • Use simple words and phrases




most important……………… priority

free time……………………….leisure


your answers………………….your responses to this


question principles1
Question Principles
  • Avoid vague quantifiers

How often did you attend religious services last year?

 Never

 Rarely

 Occasionally

 Regularly

question principles2
Question Principles

How often did you attend religious services during the past year?

 Not at all

 A few times

 About once a month

 Two or three times a month

 About once a week

 More than once a week

question principles3
Question Principles
  • Avoid bias by using both positive and negative sides in the question stem

“To what extent do you agree….”


“To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement…. “

question principles4
Question Principles
  • Avoid double-barreled questions

16. Should the new school have a swimming pool that includes lanes for swimming laps and is not enclosed for winter use?

question principles5
Question Principles
  • Avoid asking respondent to say yes in order to mean no.

5. Do you favor or oppose not allowing the state to approve a casino without approval from 60% of the voters?

 Favor

 Oppose

5. Do you favor or oppose requiring 60% approval by voters in order for a casino to be built.

 Favor requiring 60% approval

 Oppose requiring 60% approval

question principles6
Question Principles
  • Use equal numbers of positive and negative categories for scalar questions AND distinguish undecided from neutral by placing at the end of the scale.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement: “Listening to classical music is good for a persons emotional health.”

 Strongly agree

 Somewhat agree

 Neither agree nor disagree

 Somewhat disagree

 Strongly disagree

 No opinion

question principles7
Question Principles
  • Soften impact of potentially objectionable questions:

Have you ever shoplifted something from a store?


Have you ever taken something from a store without paying for it?

22. What was your total income from all sources in 2003?

______________ Total income for 2003

22. Which category best describes your total income from all sources in 2003?

 $10,000. or less

 $10,001. to $20,000.

 $20,001. to $35,000.

 $35,001. to $50,000.

 $50,001. or above

question principles8
Question Principles
  • Don’t combine numbers and words

Doing so may impact respondents perception of the scale.

1= strongly agree, 2 = agree,

3 = disagree, 4 = strongly disagree

question principles9
Question Principles
  • Eliminate check-all-that-apply questions to reduce primacy and sufficiency effect.

People tend to check the first ones more than the last ones and sometimes check a few and feel that is enough to satisfy the researcher.

question principles10
Extension Agent

Other Cattlemen

Fertilizer and other salesmen

59% selected

Extension Agent

Other Cattlemen

Fertilizer and other salesmen

Extension Agent

41% selected

Extension Agent

Question Principles
questionnaire design
Questionnaire Design
  • Paper and layout choice

booklet format preferred

one column for legal size

two columns for full size

avoid upper left staple design

avoid unusual size, shape or fold

order of questions
Order of Questions
  • A questionnaire is like a conversation. It evolves according to social norms. Constantly switching topics makes it appear as though the researcher is not listening to the respondents answers.
  • Doing otherwise results in answers that are less thought out when you want them to focus!
order of questions1
Order of Questions
  • What was your family income in 2003?
  • Do you like to play golf?
  • What is your opinion on Global Warming?
  • Are you married?
  • How often have you gone fishing this year?
  • How adequate is your current health care?
  • How old are you?
  • What is your political party preference?
  • What is your occupation?
question order
Question Order
  • Group alike questions together
  • Begin asking questions in the upper left corner
  • Ask one question at a time
  • Use item-in-a-series format
the first question
The First Question
  • Should clearly apply to everyone
  • Question should be easy
  • Question needs to be interesting
  • Connectedness between the question and the purpose of the survey.
unacceptable first questions
Unacceptable First Questions

1. Please think about the things that make MSU Extension a pleasant place to work and write down the five most important aspects and rate them one to five in importance to you.


unacceptable first questions1
Unacceptable First Questions

1. Please describe in your own words what you consider good about working for MSU Extension.

1. What year were you born?

_________year born

good first question
Good First Question

1. Thinking about MSU Extension, how would you rate it as a place to work?

 Excellent

 Good

 Fair

 Poor

graphic design
Graphic Design
  • Stimuli on page consists of two languages:

written words

graphic symbols and arrangements

graphic design1
Graphic Design
  • Desired navigational path
  • Create visual navigational guides
  • Develop additional guides for redirecting during skip patterns
  • Be consistent through out your instrument
questionnaire design1
Questionnaire Design
  • Instructions need to be exactly where needed not at the beginning of the whole questionnaire.
  • Use italics or bolding or underline to emphasize instructions and directions
questionnaire design2
Questionnaire Design
  • Pre-attentive processing is 210 degrees
  • Focused reading is 2 degrees or about 8 to 9 characters
  • Use font, size, contrast, underline, spacing to lead the respondent through the questionnaire
Start here:
  • Which of the following is your main work activity?


 Teaching

 Administration

 Other (Please Specify) _________________


Which of the following is your main work activity?

 Research

 Teaching

 Administration

 Other (Please specify) ____________________

questionnaire format
Questionnaire Format
  • For paper questionnaires the standard font is 12 pt Times New Roman – also consider a larger font for senior audiences
  • For on-line questionnaires the standard font is 10 pt Ariel
questionnaire design3
Questionnaire Design
  • Use a square for your answer and ask for an “X” in the square.

[ ]


questionnaire design4
Questionnaire Design
  • Place instructions exactly where needed within the question
  • Differentiate with font, bolding, underlining etc
5. How many months have you worked at your current job?

_________Number of months

Please be as specific as possible in answering the next question, including any area of specialization. Example: Extension Agent – Agriculture. If you had more than one job, answer for the job for which you worked the most hours.

6. What kind of work do you do in your current job?

_________________________________ Kind of work

5. How many months have you worked in your current job?

_____________________ Number of months

6. What kind of work do you do in your current job? Please be as specific as possible in answering. Include any are of specialization, for example: “Extension Agent – Agriculture”. If you had more than one job, answer for the job which you worked the most hours.

______________________________Kind of work

questionnaire design5
Questionnaire Design
  • Vertical alignment eases response task
  • Don’t double or triple bank answers
1. Which one of the following best describes the 4-H project with the largest enrollment within your club?
  • market beef
  • lambs
  • hogs
  • dogs
  • cats
  • rabbits
  • goats
  • poultry
  • dairy
1. Which one of the following best describes the 4-H project with the largest enrollment within your club?
  • beef
  • hogs
  • lambs
  • dogs
  • cats
  • rabbits
  • goats
  • poultry
  • dairy
questionnaire design6
Questionnaire Design
  • Major changes are needed for skip patterns
  • Skip patterns are difficult to follow
  • Skip patterns often lead to item non response
Normally do you eat breakfast every day?
  •  Yes (Go to 13)
  •  No (Go to 18)
  • 13. How many times a week do you drink orange juice with your breakfast?

__________ Times a week

12. Normally do you eat breakfast every day?

 No (Skip to 18)

 Yes

13. (If Yes) How often do you drink orange juice with your breakfast?

____________ Times a week

questionnaire design7
Questionnaire Design
  • Demographic data questions

Place at end of questionnaire but not on

back page

Only ask what is necessary

questionnaire design8
Questionnaire Design
  • Front cover needs to stand out

Consider simple art work

Include name of survey

Include name and address for return

questionnaire design9
Questionnaire Design
  • Back cover needs to be simple with white space

Try not to ask specific questions

May place open ended question here

Give opportunity to add comments

Conclude with a thank you

  • Respondent friendly questionnaire
  • Multiple contacts
  • Token pre-paid incentive
  • SASA for return
  • Personalized correspondence
  • Four contacts plus one “special” = 5 contacts

Brief pre notice letter

Questionnaire mailing with SASE

Thank you postcard

Replacement questionnaire

Final contact with “special” mailing

implementation contact 1
Implementation – Contact 1
  • Pre-notice letter:

Date at top

Personalized letter

What will happen

What it is about

Usefulness of survey

Thank you

Real signature

P.S. Token incentive

Mail out a few days to one week before mailing instrument

4-6% higher response rate

implementation contact 2
Implementation – Contact 2
  • Mail the questionnaire

Include personalized cover letter


Self addressed stamped envelope with real stamp

Enclose incentive

Use first class postage – plain envelope

implementation cover letter
Implementation – Cover Letter
  • Inside address
  • Request
  • Why you were selected
  • Usefulness of survey
  • Confidentiality
  • Token of appreciation
  • Willingness to answer questions
  • Thank you
  • Real signature in contrasting ink
implementation token incentive
Implementation – Token Incentive
  • Cash in advance $1. or $2. = 12% to 19% increase in response rate
  • Less of an increase for larger amount later
  • Increasing incentive not cost effective
  • Non dollar incentive not as effective and may be effective because of packaging
implementation contact 3
Postcard to all who were mailed a questionnaire thanking them

Serves to jog memory

Gives opportunity to call for replacement if needed

Implementation – Contact 3

Mail one week after questionnaire

Increase up to 13%

implementation contact 4
Implementation – Contact 4
  • Replacement questionnaire to those who have not yet responded.
  • Letter reminding them of the survey and asking again for their assistance.

Sent only to non-respondents

Two to four weeks after 3rd contact

implementation contact 5
Implementation – Contact 5
  • Special mailing to those who have not yet responded
  • Use unique method of mailing – certified, priority etc
  • May also telephone and fill out over the phone

Final contact is a week or more after 4th contact

tracking responses
Tracking Responses
  • Assign each questionnaire a number
  • Assign each name and address a number
  • Send respondents their individually numbered questionnaire
  • Have assistant mark off numbers as they are returned
  • Note surveys are confidential not anonymous
  • Keep completed questionnaires in secure location
mixed mode surveys
Mixed Mode Surveys

Responses differ by mode:

“Excellent Health” = 44% by personal interview

= 37% by telephone

= 30% by mail

social desirability


primacy vs recency effect

telephone surveys
Telephone Surveys
  • Difficult to obtain phone numbers
  • Caller id and answering machines may screen calls
  • Need well trained interviewers
  • Limited number of questions and answers
internet surveys
Internet Surveys
  • Consider coverage error. Does your entire audience have and use the internet on a regular basis?
  • E-mail addresses change often
  • Difficult to include incentive
  • Shorter less detailed questionnaire

Survey Monkey

research ethics
Research Ethics

Anonymous – No way to know who returned the survey

Confidential – Only researcher can connect the respondent with their answers. All answers remain confidential.

research ethics1
Research Ethics
  • If you wish to publish results you MUST get approval from UCRIHS before you send out surveys.

University Committee on Research Involving Human Subject


Mail and Internet Surveys – The Tailored

Design Method by Don Dillman 2000