A survey is an evaluation tool for collection of quantitative and/or qualitative information through a series of questions to individuals or groups of individuals. Surveys can also be conducted through the use of personal observation, aerial maps, documents, and diagrams, etc.
Surveys can be administered in a number of ways, including:
- Mail survey
- Phone survey
- Online survey
- Group survey
- Individual interviews
- Observation/Content analysis (maps, groups, photos, etc.)
Surveys are often used in evaluation practice. The advantage of surveys is their relatively low cost and immediate feedback.
The limitations of surveys includes the potential for poor question and survey design, self-report bias by participants, and limited response rates.
A credible survey requires thoughtful preparation to ensure the reliability and credibility of the data.
Explore these key survey planning resources so that the results don't fall short of your expectations.
Survey Publications and Resources
Survey Methodology and Procedures:
- Collecting Evaluation Data: Surveys (PDF) - University of Wisconsin Extension
A 27-page publication from University of Wisconsin Extension that covers steps involved in the process of developing and conducting a survey, including: selecting the appropriate survey method, conducting the survey, improving response rates and interpreting results when response rates are low.
- Methods Of Collecting Information (PDF)
Two-page table identifying evaluation methods and the purpose, advantage and challenges of using each method.
- When To Use Retrospective Surveys (PDF) - University of Wisconsin Extension
Tip sheet describing when it is appropriate and best to use the retrospective post-then-pre survey method.
- Collecting Evaluation Data (PDF) - University of Wisconsin
Multi-page presentation covering the basics of data collection procedures.
- Survey Procedures (PDF) - University of Wisconsin Extension
A two-page tip sheet on planning and managing a survey using Dillman's Total Design Method.
- Retrospective Survey Design (PDF) - University of Wisconsin Extension
Tip sheet that describes the retrospective post-then-pre method of surveying participants to determine changes using a single measurement.
- Cover Letter For A Survey (PDF) - Penn State Extension
Describes the content ans structure of a good cover letter that goes with a survey.
- Example Extension Program Evaluation Tools
Examples of structure and wording of evaluation survey instrument questions. Examples are shown for measuring at all levels of the Extension program logic model.
- Writing Retrospective Questions (PDF) - University of Wisconsin Extension
Tip sheet describing how to construct questions to be used with the retrospective post-then-pre survey method.
- Random Samples: How and Why (PDF) - Penn State Extension
A two-page guide with steps for collecting a random sample of subjects for a survey or other types of studies.
- Research Randomizer (for drawing random samples)
- How To Determine A Sample Size (PDF) - Penn State Extension
A five-page detailed tip sheet on how to calculate a sample size for an evaluation based on the population.
- How To Get A Respectable Response Rate (PDF) - University of Wisconsin Extension
Quick tips on how to get the highest response rate when conducting a survey.
- What To Do When You Get A Low Response Rate (PDF) - University of Wisconsin Extension
Quick tips on what you can do if your response rate to a survey is lower than you expected.
- Increasing Your Survey Response Rate (PDF) - Penn State Extension
Recommendations on how you can increase the response rates to surveys by using a system of follow-up reminders.