Method Mondays: When not to use a survey to collect data?


(Stacey McDonald) #1

Am I the only one that finds myself trying to talk people out of doing surveys? Don’t get me wrong, surveys are a great way to collect data. They are often very cost effective, and can reach a lot of people. The thing is, getting the right data from a survey can be pretty tricky. Often responses rates aren’t what you hoped, and when you look at results, they might not end up telling you what you were hoping to learn.

When not to use a survey:

  • you aren’t likely able to act on results, but instead are just curious about something (don’t ask people for input, when you can’t actually change anything. filling out surveys takes time, respect that)
  • you want to answer “why” or “how” questions. these can be much better answered through interviews or focus groups where you can dig deep and ask for clarifications
  • you don’t have a defined and narrow purpose. don’t just through in all kinds of questions

When survey can be helpful:

  • you know the right questions to ask, how to ask them, and to whom you should be asking them
  • you want information on a clearly defined topic
  • you want to answer “how many” or “what happened” questions