Evaluations are becoming an important part of almost every government activity, especially the administration of grant programs. Many grant program evaluations use surveys to collect information from both benefactors and beneficiaries. For these surveys to be effective, they should follow a few simple best practices outlined below.
1. Brief, Smooth Introduction: This should provide the respondent with background information on the survey, including why it is being conducted and who is distributing the survey.
2. Easy, Nonthreatening Start (and Closed-Ended Questions): This will warm the respondent up for harder questions asked later in the survey. Further, placing difficult questions at the front often “turns-off” the respondent, leading to a lower response rate.
3. Delay Sensitive Issues until Later: Respondents are more likely to answer these questions if they are later in the survey.
4. Demographics Last: Demographic questions are the most sensitive to ask. Placing them at the end maximizes the sense of anonymity and makes the respondent more comfortable.
5. Short Transitions: When changing the question format or subject, it is important to include a lead in question that transitions the respondent into the next set of questions. This will diminish confusion and increase the flow of the survey.
6. Consistent Series Answer Format: Continuity in answer types increases the respondents ability to quickly finish the survey and decreases potential confusion. This will increase the overall response rate of your survey.
7. Limited Use of Open-Ended: Open-ended questions lead to a number of issues including damaging the response rate and causing coding and interpretation issues. It is best to limit these within surveys. It is best to only use these types of questions for new topics that have not been researched in the past or employee venting.
8. Length as Short as Possible: Respondents are more likely to complete a short survey over a longer survey.
9. Extensive Testing and Polishing: Testing the survey will eliminate any potential issues that may arise that could decrease the validity of the survey. This is extremely important as a decreased survey validity leads to issues with the entire evaluation.
10. Fair Question Order Framing Sequences: It is important to ensure that you are not ordering the questions based on biases. Be sure to look over the questions multiple times and have numerous individuals review the survey beforehand to ensure that you are not placing personal biases into the survey that could distort results.
What Do You Think?
What are some other good practices to utilize when constructing surveys?