AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Jan/12

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Jan Losby and Anne Wetmore on whether to survey or not to survey—that is the question

We are Jan Losby (a CDC employee) and Anne Wetmore (an ORISE Fellow), members of the Evaluation and Program Effectiveness Team in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Surveys can be an important part of your evaluation efforts. As evaluators we have probably all heard (or said), “We need a survey!” Before launching into any survey effort make certain you know the purpose of the proposed survey. To determine your purpose, take time to answer these four simple questions:

  • Hot Tip #1:  Why a survey? Is there another way—focus groups, direct observation, document review, or secondary data sources—that will provide you with the information you need for your evaluation?
  • Hot Tip #2:  Who do you intend to survey?  Are you surveying program staff, partners, stakeholders, recipients, employers, providers, etc.?
  • Hot Tip #3:  What do you need to know? You may have a long wish list of things you would like to know—go through your list carefully and determine which ones are “need to know” rather than simply “nice to know.”  It is important that you take the time upfront to determine if each question you are considering is absolutely essential.

A useful check can be to ask yourself:

If I know________ (fill in the blank with the information you hope to gather through the survey), I will be able to ________ (fill in the blank with what you hope to be able to do, for example measure a specific outcome).

  • Hot Tip #4:  How will the survey be administered (i.e., telephone, in-person, Internet)? Your timeframe and available resources will likely affect which mode you select.  Also, consider which mode will work best for the people you intend to survey.

Rad Resources

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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3 comments

  • A Roundup of Survey Design Resources (Cross-Post with Actionable Data) | Sheila B Robinson · September 7, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    […] Losby and Anne Wetmore in “whether to survey or not to survey—that is the question” discuss the most important consideration of all — […]

    Reply

  • A Roundup of Survey Design Resources | actionable data · February 13, 2013 at 11:02 am

    […] Losby and Anne Wetmore in “whether to survey or not to survey—that is the question” discuss the most important consideration of all — […]

    Reply

  • Mike Landon @ Espiar PC · January 4, 2012 at 10:40 am

    For me, tip#2 seems to be the most important. Ihad experience running surveys profesionally for ad agencies and regardless of the type of survey there was always an idendical survey targetting 10 different sections of people, diversified from income, education, social status, age, sex, race, etc. When combined, the surveys will provide all the info required to advertise the product effectively to each section. Thanks for your post.

    Reply

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