Project Planning: Establishing Survey Objectives

A well-executed and successful survey begins with an understanding of the project’s goals and objectives. Before you begin collecting data, you should determine what type of survey you are conducting, adequately research your topic, and define your objectives.

1. Determine what type of survey you are conducting. 
Are you conducting research or an evaluation? The type of survey you choose to conduct will impact your objectives, methods, sampling, and analysis. Below are the descriptions of research and evaluation.

Research: is the process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data to describe the current level of institutional or departmental effectiveness. Research objectives and sample sizes are broad in nature. The results gained from research often add information to an existing field or contribute information to theory development tests. These inferences can then be applied to a variety of situations.

  • A survey of students’ experiences and attitudes toward healthy eating and physical fitness.
  • A survey about a population’s experiences, attitudes, and perceptions regarding sexual harassment.

Evaluation: uses evidence found through research to improve institutional or departmental effectiveness. The objectives and samples used in evaluation projects are clearly defined compared to research objectives. Evaluations provide a snapshot of what is currently happening in a specific program and how that program can be improved. Common evaluations are:

  • Customer satisfaction survey
  • Conference or event evaluation

2. Gather information.

  • Review existing literature on your topic to see how it has been framed by other researchers, noting what information was included or left out.
  • Consider other related issues or themes when exploring a specific topic as they might prompt additional questions.

3. Define the objectives of your study.

  • Define the research objectives you want to address.
  • Meet with colleagues and stake holders to elicit their thoughts on important issues to address.
  • Consider whether you are conducting research or an evaluation to determine whether your objectives will be attainable for your survey type. Research objectives are broad in nature and its results offer new information to a field of study, while evaluative objectives are clearly defined and its results give specific answers.
  • Transform your objectives into the questions you want answered.

After you have addressed the preliminary aspects of project planning, you are ready to move on in the survey planning process and decide what method of survey is right for you.