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Collect Data with a Survey

Resources for learning about and conducting public opinion and other research surveys, including recruitment, questionnaire design, and online survey software.

What is your purpose?

The importance of recruitment depends on your purpose. Are you trying to:

  • Gather ideas
    • You can and should get as many people to participate in any way you can.
  • Compare people/responses
    • You should attempt to ensure that the people who take your survey are diverse representatives of the population you are interested in. And, consider whether the relationships you are interested in might be impacted by personal characteristics.  
  • Conduct an experiment
    • You should attempt to ensure that the people who take your survey will have the same responses to your materials as the population you are interested in. In most cases, representing the population is less important. Focus instead on making sure that your manipulation is as small as possible and applied randomly
  • Describe a population
    • Your sample must be representative of the population in order to claim that the percentage and means you find in your data can be generalized to the whole group. Only random sampling is generally accepted to produce a representative sample. Otherwise, you will have to justify your claim, perhaps by comparing demographics if the characteristics of the population are known. 

How to Contact

Your respondents are busy, they will not necessarily be ready or able to take your survey when you first contact about it. Then, they will quickly forget about your request. So, ask a few times (5 is good). 

Sample Size

Note that this is the number of responses, not the number of people to contact (typical response rates range from 4% to 40%).