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Surveying is a great way to discover what a large amount of people think about a particular issue or how a group of people report their behavior. Surveys can be done on a large range of topics and can be conducted relatively easily.

Things to consider when conducting surveys:

Who are you planning on surveying? Decide what group you are going to focus on surveying based on who you have access to and what your research is focused on.

How many people are you going to survey? You want to choose a target number of surveys to conduct. You don't want too few surveys because you won't have enough answers to support any generalizations or findings you may make. At the same time, you do not want too many surveys because you will be overwhelmed with analyzing your data.

How are you going to survey people? You can choose to conduct your survey in person (i.e. walk up to people and ask them questions); on paper (i.e. hand out surveys and ask people to return them); or even via the Internet. The survey method should be chosen based on the length of your survey and types of questions.

How long is your survey going to be? The answer to this question depends on what information you are attempting to discover and how much you want to find out. Longer surveys sometimes involve the same question asked in multiple ways to see if people are consistent in their answering strategies. For your first survey, however, it is better to keep things simple. Short questions are usually more effective than longer ones.

What type of questions are you going to ask? Do you want open-ended questions or closed questions? Open-ended questions are questions that allow the participant any type of response. An example of an open-ended question is: How are you feeling today? A closed question is one with a set of possible responses or yes/no responses. An example is: Did you feel that the new campus regulation about parking was fair? While closed questions are much easier to analyze they do not provide the rich responses you may get with open-ended questions. Ultimately, what type of question you ask depends on what you want to discover.

What questions are you going to ask? Carefully consider the wording of your questions. Please see the Creating Good Interview and Survey Questions section for more detailed information about creating good survey questions.