How to Conduct an Online Survey for a Graduate Course
Are you gathering information for a research project in one of your classes? Do you need to create a survey at work and you’re not sure of best practices? Either way, online surveys can offer low-cost, high-volume access to study participants and can drastically reduce data entry and analysis work. To achieve your research goals and avoid inaccurate results, always follow these 5 tips when planning and conducting online surveys.
1. Be concise
Keeping your survey as short and to the point as possible is essential for online research. Online surveys offer a convenient way to reach participants, but that ease of access can come with a downside: attrition. On the Internet, a significant percentage of respondents will quit after a few questions, especially on longer surveys or surveys that don’t accurately inform the participants of how long the survey will take. If you’re not careful, this can bias the sample and make your results difficult to interpret. Remember, the more concise and organized your survey, the lower your attrition rate will be.
2. Prepare for low response rates
Even if your survey is short, it may be difficult to convince many people to take the time to complete it. Remember, it's easy for people to delete your email or wander over to YouTube and forget to take your survey. To make sure you have a big enough sample, recruit more potential participants than you really need.
3. Collect basic demographic data
Even if your research doesn't deal with demographic variables like age, gender, education, or income, it's smart to collect data on those characteristics as part of your survey. Online surveys are particularly vulnerable to response bias, and the best way to combat response bias is to understand who is responding. If you notice that your sample is 90% male, you can take action to rebalance the sample. Of course, make sure your participants know why you are collecting data and what you plan to do with it.
4. Test your survey
It's extremely important to give your online survey a dress rehearsal before you start sending it out. Email your survey to a few classmates and ask them to answer the questions. Then, analyze the data. This process will help you detect—and fix--potential problems, from formatting problems to inaccurate data reporting. Conducting a thorough is the only way to ensure that things go smoothly.
5. Document everything
Anytime you conduct research, keep a thorough paper trail documenting all problems and changes to your design during the process. Careful documentation will help you explain your work to your instructors and peers and help you prepare for any future reports or publications.