If you are planning to effectively and efficiently handle a large-scale survey project in-house, knowing the questions you want to ask your target respondents is only the beginning. You also need to have access to a wide range of specialized skillsets. This is because practical considerations are certain to arise throughout the project that will require smart planning based on experience.
Here is a quick overview of a few of the most important skillsets involved in completing a large-scale survey project in-house.
Survey Design Skills
The core objective of your survey project is to obtain answers to questions that will help you analyze the thoughts, beliefs, actions, or experiences of your respondent population. To reach that objective, you must compose questions that will elicit useful responses.
During the survey design stage, it is important to consider more than the research objectives of your survey. There are other practical considerations relating to the efficiency of the project. Page count is an excellent example. If your survey is very complex or has so many questions that it must be printed in a large, multi-page booklet, you are jeopardizing the success of your project.
Large booklets create enormous challenges. They are difficult to design, print, and distribute. Additionally, they require extra effort to dismantle and collate so that they can be processed through your data extraction system. The greater the number of pages, the greater the complexity and room for error.
Graphic Design Skills
Another important skillset is graphic design. Your in-house designer must be proficient in Adobe InDesign, which is the most popular software for laying out surveys. Even though they may be a great graphic artist, their general skillset will only get them so far. They must also have experience in dealing with the many design choices that will impact your respondent’s experience while taking the survey as well as back-end quantitative data collection issues.
The layout of the survey must make it easy and intuitive for those completing the survey to fill in their responses. Even simple things like requesting a date of birth or phone number are a critical design issues. The choice to use a line to collect this information is problematic.
That’s because it is difficult for scanning software to read information formatted in a line with acceptable accuracy. The better design decision is to create a series of boxes that require respondents to place one letter or number in each box. This design option encourages respondents to write neatly. It also results in a more legible survey that is easier to review manually.
The design of the survey affects the complexity of printing the survey. Remember that one of your goals is to automate data collection. Therefore, issues such as the number of pages, the layout of each page, and the placement of design elements are extremely important. For projects that require optical mark recognition (OMR), barcodes, or pre-slugging for accurate survey scanning and tracking, small printing errors have big consequences.
Managing the distribution, collection, and storage of your surveys presents an enormous logistical challenge. Once you’ve printed your surveys and support materials, you must then assemble the survey packets and distribute them to your respondents. You must also be prepared to receive the surveys when they are returned. The logistics skills involved include collating, packaging, labeling, addressing, bulk mailing, return-mail handling, warehousing, inventory tracking, and follow-up mailings.
Data Extraction Skills
Assuming that you have the necessary OMR and image-scanning equipment in place, you’ll also need to follow strict quality control measures to ensure the accuracy of your data. The data extraction process requires reliable data output formats, tables and rules, exceptions, electronic verification, manual verification, and image indexing to facilitate easy search and retrieval.
Do You Have Access to All of the Skillsets You Need?
As you prepare for your large-scale survey project, consider making a thorough assessment of your team’s skillsets. If you don’t have easy access to all of the skills you need to complete your project effectively and efficiently, it’s time to search for a partner that can help. Doing so will help your organization maximize its return on investment in time and money.