1Decide on sample size. You will need to figure out how many respondents you need and how to keep the process as free of selection bias as possible. It is generally best to go with random selections of participants or an all-inclusive approach based on demographics.
- For example, Pew Research limits their international interviews to 1,000 persons per country. This may seem like a small number but it allows them to cover more countries.
- Be realistic about how many people you can feasibly interview or survey in your given time period and with your available resources. Good data does not necessarily mean more surveys.
Get review board clearance if necessary. If you are operating out of a university or business setting, you may need to approach your institutional review board (IRB) and have them sign off on your research. This is generally the case because survey research requires interaction with human subjects. During the IRB review process you will need to provide as much information as possible about your survey objectives and methodology.
Pursue funding. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of your survey, if going beyond the classroom and gathering scientific data. You can submit a grant application to funding agencies at the local, state, or federal levels. You can also approach field-specific organizations. To get an idea as to cost a phone survey, for example, can cost up to per contact.
Contact respondents via email for a quick option. This is one of the most preferred ways of communicating now, so it makes sense as a survey delivery option. It is quick and generally cheap to do, even if you need to purchase an email list. You can generally reach a particular target audience and ask them to complete the survey within the email or direct them to another site. The downside is that it is very easy for respondents to delete emails.
Contact respondents via the post for a traditional method. This is an old-fashioned, but still used, method of survey contact. You will mail out your questionnaires to your survey sample addresses. This method allows you to cover a wide geographical range and it is also a friendly method for older respondents who are less comfortable using email and the like. However, be prepared to pay more and expect a lagging response time.
Contact respondents via the phone if you have access to phone numbers. With telephone surveys you will want to navigate the balance between cell phones and landlines. Which ones will you contact? You’ll also want to figure out how to get the numbers, perhaps by purchasing a calling list. Telephone surveys are one of the cheaper methods, but they also generally yield high refusal rates as people often feel inconvenienced.
7Choose a research firm to survey for you if you can afford it. You can find a research firm near to you by searching your city name and “research firm.” Depending on your budget, you may want to hire a group to ask your questions for you. Or, you can even hire them to write the questions as well. This is one option if you need a professionally created survey with a quick turnaround time.
- Review all of the policies of the company that you hire to make sure that they have privacy practices in place. You also may want a confidentiality agreement in order to protect the process and final results.
8Monitor your interviewers. Fieldwork can be challenging but to get the best data you must use trained, professionals to administer your surveys. Asking interviewers to log information about their contacts, such as the time of the interview, is one way to keep track of what is happening in the field.
- Be aware that some survey researchers may need additional training in counseling if they are going to ask personal questions that my elicit a strong emotional response.
9Adhere to federal and state regulations. Make sure to do your research regarding applicable laws before you make your survey public. This is especially the case if you will be contacting persons “cold” and without their prior knowledge or consent. There are generally age limits for contact, time limits, as well as limits pertaining to particular contact methods.
- For example, some laws prevent researchers from using auto dial to make phone calls.
Prepare your findings for professional review. The way that you handle your final results is likely to be very field-specific. Some fields, such as sociology, provide venues for journal publication, conference presentations, and lectures. Whatever your approach, after you’ve analyzed your data, look for a way to share your findings with the broader academic (and maybe even public) world.
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