Institutional Assessment & Studies University of Virginia

Mailing Address
University of Virginia
Office of Institutional Assessment and Studies
P.O. Box 400727
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4727
Physical Address
445 Rugby Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Survey Planning and Design

Survey Services

IAS can provide direct support (question writing, web programming, administration and analysis) for a limited number of surveys from University offices and departments. Please contact IAS for more information or to request survey support.

What's New

The 2015 SERU (Student Experience in the Research University) Survey results are here.

Individuals interested in conducting survey research need to consider a wide range of factors prior to and during the survey process. The page provides a simple checklist that may be helpful in the formulation and implementation of a survey project. IAS also provides a sample survey invitation letter.


Survey Planning and Design Checklist

This checklist highlights a number of questions and considerations that survey researchers commonly need to address throughout the survey process. This list is not exhaustive and individuals or organizations should tailor this list to their own needs.

    1. Define the purpose of the survey as precisely as possible.

    2. Review previous surveys/data to determine whether a new survey is needed.

    3. Check with the Institutional Review Board to see if approval is needed.

    4. Formulate research questions and hypotheses—what is it you want to learn by conducting the survey and what are your hypotheses?

    5. What is the survey population? (e.g., undergraduates, graduate students, alumni).

    6. Are oversamples of certain population subgroups necessary to insure sufficient cases for analysis?

    7. Will incentives be offered to boost the response rate, e.g., lotteries, cash, tokens? IAS recommends $1/respondent be spent on incentives.

    8. Create a rough draft of questions/subjects to be included in the survey.

    9. Pretest the survey on a sample of potential respondents to test questions and get feedback on question wording, order, etc.

    10. Revise the questionnaire draft according to the feedback from the pretest.

    11. Draft an invitation to participate letter (see sample).

    12. If you are sending a printed invitation letter - print letters, stuff envelopes, sort, and mail, late in the week if possible. The goal is to have respondents receive surveys early in the week—Monday or Tuesday.

    13. Define the field period and adopt a tracking plan (when to send reminders, and what type). IAS recommends tracking nonrespondents and sending reminders to those who have not responded. At least 3 email reminders to nonrespondents are appropriate and sometimes more are necessary.

    14. Clean and assess the quality of the data and tabulate results.

    15. Analyze the results, test hypotheses, and write reports.

    16. Publicize the results—if possible it is a good idea to give respondents the option of seeing the results.