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Design Process

The following steps outline how to develop a survey.  We are available to help you with any part of the survey process.  We strongly encourage you to have a draft of your survey reviewed by the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis before you administer the survey.

Step 1: Define your topic. 

You will obtain higher response rates if you develop a survey that is concise.

Step 2: Identify a sample of respondents. 

You typically do not have to survey all respondents but can survey just a sample of potential respondents.  You can use an online sample size calculator to help you determine the appropriate sample size for your survey.

Step 3: Develop questions, an introduction, and a plan for follow-up.

Your questionnaire should include an introduction that indicates who is conducting the survey, how results will be used, whether results are confidential, whom to contact with questions, etc.  Be sure to familiarize yourself with policies about informed consent. You should determine how and when you will follow up with potential respondents to remind them to complete the survey.  

Step 4: Send your survey draft to the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis for review.

We can help you avoid common pitfalls in survey research and provide an additional review for editing purposes.

Step 5: Obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, if necessary. 

To learn more about how to obtain approval, visit the Institutional Review Board website.

Step 6: Pilot test the survey.

Test the survey with a sample of your actual respondents.  The purpose of pilot testing is to obtain feedback regarding wording, structure, format, etc. of the survey.  During pilot testing, you should ask respondents to complete the survey and time how long it took them.  Testers can provide insights regarding terminology that was confusing, formatting changes that would make the survey more user-friendly, content that was offensive, order of the questions, length of the survey, variety of questions, questions to add/delete, and other suggestions for improvements. 

Step 7: Administer the survey.

Consider the timing of the survey.  Depending on the audience, it may not be ideal to distribute the survey during finals week, for example.  We recommend you discuss the timing of your survey with us to verify that it does not conflict with the distribution of university-sponsored surveys.  By coordinating survey efforts, we can ensure that respondents receive a reasonable number of surveys and that the survey timelines do not overlap.

Step 8: Analyze the results, distribute findings, and make appropriate decisions.

Survey results should only be shared with the appropriate constituents. Survey reports and analyses should never be presented in a way that enables readers to identify individual respondents.  Summarizing your results protects the privacy and confidentiality of the respondents and provides a more useful picture of the data collected.