March 2, 2016

Survey Success

When making changes to any system or process the opinions and experiences of those who currently use it or are hoped to be using it are essential.  At a University the normal process for getting this information is through surveys, but how do you make sure your survey is completed when so many others are vying for attention?

Online survey tools are now commonplace, from free software like Survey Monkey & Google Forms to paid-for services like Qualtrics, it is possible to produce a survey in almost any form.  Regardless of the platform how you present and communicate your survey will make or break the quality of the data that you get.



Top chefs and food critics always say that the first bite is with the eye, a meal that looks unappetising is less likely to be consumed than one that is presented like a masterpiece.  This is the same for a survey, get the presentation and structure right and you have got the foundations set for getting the data you need.

  • Aim – make the aim of the survey clear right from the beginning with a concise summary
  • Logic – treat your survey like a story with a beginning, middle and end that builds up to a clear point
  • Wording – avoid forceful or overly positive/negative words, keep the questions neutral
  • Balance – always give equal positive & negative responses on multiple choice or scale answers
  • Simplicity – keep your questions and formatting simple, the less distraction or confusion the better.
  • Consistency – when possible keep the survey response options the same throughout, so don’t go from marks out of ten to marks out of five
  • Images – break up your questions with appropriate images but make sure they are not distracting
  • Length – keep your survey short but make sure you get all the information you need.

Before you get people to fill out the survey make sure it is tested by yourself and others to find those inevitable glitches. By covering the basics you will improve the chances of your survey being completed.

The next question is how to make the right people aware of it?



Thanks to modern technology communication has become so easy and so frequent that the challenge is now more about making the message stand out from a crowd.  Think about how many emails you get in a day, then consider how many of those are important, next think about how many of those were requests for information.

Whatever form of communication you use you will need to make sure your message stands out from a crowd.

  • Target – set a clear target audience from the beginning and ensure you are able to communicate to them directly
  • Timing – sending information out at the right time will make the difference, try and target times where your target audience has time to complete the survey
  • Platform – choose the right platform, using Twitter or email may not be the best routes for certain demographics so consider you target audience
  • Familiarity – use your knowledge of and relationships with your target audience to your advantage, if you can get other familiar names to help then that will be useful
  • Persevere – it’s unlikely that you will get enough responses from just one communication, you will need to repeat you message to cover as many people as possible

The challenge of getting your message across is not an easy one and there is no definitive strategy that will work for everyone.

More resources and tips on surveys can be found below:

For guidance on using the Qualtrics software please see the online Qualtrics training course.