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Survey How Tos


OIRE and the University Survey Working Group highly recommend reading this short primer and the embedded links as appropriate. It covers topics such as things to think about before you survey, survey design considerations, survey administration procedures, disseminating survey results, and overall survey management, as well as a wealth of resources to access for further information.

 Things to Consider Before You Survey

    • Pros and cons of surveys
    • Surveying vs. obtaining feedback vs. assessment
    • Have you considered any alternatives to surveys?
    • What due diligence has been done to determine if other surveys already exist that can be used (e.g., nationally normed surveys like the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement))?
    • What is the purpose of the survey?
    • What population(s) is(are) being surveyed?
      • From whom or what unit/group are you obtaining your survey population’s contact information? (In other words, where are you getting the list of email addresses you are sending the survey to?)
      • What criteria will be used to identify your target population?
      • Do you intend on oversampling or stratifying?
    • Is IRB approval required?
      • Have you submitted your protocol for IRB review? If so, have you been approved?

     Survey Design Considerations


     Survey Software

    • There are a plethora of survey software options out there, each with its own costs and pros and cons, including:
    • Please note that, due to software licensing restrictions, the Office of Institutional Research & Effectiveness is not able to use its own software to deploy/administer surveys for individual units/schools/colleges.

     Survey Administration Preparations

    • Has the survey been piloted? (That is to say, if this is a “home-grown” survey that you created, have you tested it on a population similar to your target audience? This will enable you to obtain feedback to improve the survey.)
      • If so, how have you piloted the survey (what population was used, what feedback was obtained, how did you use this information to improve the survey?)
      • If you have skip patterns, be certain to have your testers (survey piloters) test each of those skip patterns to determine an average length of time to complete the survey.
    • Dates that the survey will be administered. Check the institutional survey schedule and with OIRE to determine the best timing for your survey. Also check your school, college or department survey schedule to avoid competing with their administration windows and causing survey fatigue.
      • When multiple surveys are administered to overlapping populations, you run the risk of decreasing your response rate.
    • What is your target response rate?
      • How did you determine what this was? Will your audiences for the results agree that it is sufficient?
      • Response rate calculator available at:
      • How do you expect to achieve it?
      • How many will you have to survey?
    • How/when/how often will you contact your survey participants?
      • How will the survey participants be contacted/reminded?
      • How many times will the survey participants be contacted (i.e., to be reminded to complete the survey)?
      • Are you going to hold any events to enhance survey participation?
        • Will they actually attract your target audience?
    • Do you plan on administering this survey in the future annually, every two years, etc.?
    • Who (or what group) is performing the actual survey administration
      • Are you using an outside agency or third-party to administer the survey?
      • If so, do you have a non-disclosure agreement from this entity?
      • Are they an approved CU vendor?

     Now That You’ve Gathered Your Data

    • What is your timeline for disseminating the results? 
    • With whom will the results be shared?
      • Will the results be shared internally only?
      • Will the results be published? If so, where? 
    • What follow-up will occur with the survey data? (Not just with whom will the results be shared, such as administration/leadership, but what is going to happen with these data?)

     Survey Plan Summary

    You should have a complete survey plan to include:

    • A communication plan
    • Survey introduction/preamble
    • A schedule which includes reminder dates (e.g. Sample from NSSE):
      • Survey pre-announcement
      • 1 week later (preferably timed to arrive proximal to weekend): 1st mailing/email contact
      • 7-10 days later: 2nd mailing/email
      • 7-10 days later: 3rd mailing/email (if hard copy, include another copy of the survey, in case the subject has misplaced the original mailing)
      • 7-10 days later: final reminder
    • A data analysis plan, including open-ended responses
    • A results dissemination plan

     Helpful Websites/Resources

    If you would like assistance with your survey, please complete an online request.

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