Writing a survey: the successes and failures of a first attempt
As part of our course we put together an online blog that addresses the needs of a particular community. The one that I was involved in works on the premise that if you put good career advice on the internet, it is accessible to all rather than limited to a few privileged people. We publish hints and tips from career veterans as well as graduates who are just starting out in the hope that it will be a resource for people who are ambitious, but don’t have access to people working in the professions that they are interested in.
As the website is purely aimed at young people, it was important that we got their feedback on what we were doing. Our strategy for this was two-pronged; we arranged a meeting with a class of young adults and discussed the site with them, and put a survey online for people to fill out.
The survey was my responsibility, and the first that I had written by myself. In retrospect, although we had a good response and we were able to learn some important things about what we had succeeded in and what we needed to include, there were some things about the survey that I was unhappy with so I thought I would blog about what I did right and what I got wrong.
Example 1: Two questions that overlapped
This is a classic example of what happens when you write a quiz with an agenda. I was so interested in finding out how well we were serving the community that I totally failed to notice that two of my questions covered very similar territory.
Solution: These needed to either be made more distinctive, or one of them should have been removed.
Example 2: Vague questions
In my determination not to ask leading questions, I left some of them vague. While the upside of this is that it allowed for some diverse, and surprising answers, the downside was that I felt it lacked a bit of structure.
Solution: This could probably have been clearer and I could have left the blank answer box to still give more room for original answers than a tickbox.
Example 3: Results
Part of the work I did was to analyse the results and blog about them. The positive thing that came out of the survey was that we were able to respond to the requests we received for some clearly explained advice on interviews, CVs and cover letters. This allowed us to listen to the needs of the online community and directly serve them. The one thing that I wasn’t happy about though was my visualisations of some of the data.
Solution: If I go back to the post, I will change the colour scheme on this pie chart (the other one was fine) so that the segments stand out more. I would also get rid of the key in the corner, as it adds nothing new and simply repeats the information already found on the pie chart labels.
For my next blog post, I thought I would follow on from this one and put together a how-to guide to surveys.