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Survey Design Basics

Define Objectives and Research Goals


Before starting to write any question for your survey, define the objectives of your survey and the research goals you plan to achieve. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Create reasonable objectives:
    • Don’t have objectives that can’t be directly met through the survey.
    • E.g. Don’t try to find effects that take years to measure if you don’t have the means to perform a longitudinal study (where participants are surveyed several times over a long period of time).
  • Develop a timeline:
    • When will you write the questions? Pilot the survey? Launch the survey? Follow up with participants? Close the survey? Analyze the data? Write up the report? Etc.
  • Prioritize your goal:‚Äč
    • E.g., if you find that you don’t have enough money or time to get the sample you want, you may want to ask fewer questions.
  • Determine your target population:
    • It must be feasible to collect a pseudo-random sample from the population.
    • Your goals and objectives should be framed in reference to this audience.
    • Try to avoid bias (or at least determine your acceptable form of bias).
    • E.g., instead of “Penn State University students” you may want to instead target “Current undergraduate students majoring in Economics at Penn State University”.