You can help write effective survey on alternative route issue

Tom Graham, President, Big Park Regional Coordination Council

Tom Graham, President, Big Park Regional Coordination Council

The survey about an alternate route from Big Park/Village to West Sedona will soon be published in the Villager. We’re asking you for your input on the questions to ask, but before you send them in, read this first.

A survey can obtain real information about what the public thinks about this issue. And while surveys seem so simple, they rarely are in real life. Slightly vary the types of questions and response options and you can seriously impact the quality and value of the survey’s results.

Bad results can lead to bad decisions -- the very thing you want to avoid by making a survey in the first place. Ask wrong questions or ask them in the wrong way leads to no good information to solve the issue.

It’s easy to begin the survey writing process by brainstorming a list of questions to ask. Your head’s full of questions you’re dying to ask and it’d be so easy to type them out and call it a day.

But that’s far from the best way to start.

Instead, begin the process by brainstorming the information that is actionable feedback. It will prevent creating a survey with questions that don’t matter. Your survey should start with the information you need, and then it is easier to draft the questions that will provide valuable information.

Here are some basic rules for drafting surveys:

  1. Use Simple, Direct Language - Avoid using big words, complicated words and words that could have multiple meanings. Questions should be short, simple, and clear.

  2. Be Specific - Some concepts may mean different things to different people. Try to be as specific as possible when you ask questions.

  3. Break Down Big Ideas into Multiple Questions - Another way to deal with broad concepts that mean different things to different people is by breaking them down into multiple, more tangible questions.

  4. Avoid Leading Questions - Sometimes, researchers’ opinions can seep into survey questions, subtly encouraging respondents to answer in a certain way and compromising survey results.

  5. Ask One Thing per Question - Each survey question should ask one thing and one thing only. It seems simple enough, but many survey writers fall into the “double-barreled” question trap. A better option is to split the question into two separate ones.

  6. Use More Interval Questions - One simple way to make a survey great is by changing your Yes/No and multiple choice questions to interval questions. Make a statement and ask people to answer it on a 1-5 or 1-7 scale.

  7. Framing - If survey takers are told that the survey has a goal, they may answer questions in a way that helps you achieve that goal, instead of answering the questions totally honestly. To prevent this, try to be neutral when you describe the survey and give instructions.

This is your chance to help write this survey

What information do you need to make a decision about the alternate route issue? Please email your answer to: info@bigparkcouncil.org.

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