Guidelines for Fieldwork: Surveys


As discussed in class, for this week, you are moving from traditional academic research to fieldwork (or qualitative, ethnographic work). This is an organic process, so the questions you ask for your interviews (if you are doing them) should develop from the data your survey generates, and the survey questions should be informed by your initial observations.

For your survey, you will be using an online tool to create/distribute the survey. I suggest SurveyMonkey, as it is free/easy to use, but you are welcome to use another tool if you feel more comfortable with that (just send me an e-mail to let me know what it is before getting started). If you don’t already have account, you should create a free one: just one account per group. Use one person’s e-mail, and make a password that you all can use (whoever has the account can then go back after the semester is over and change the password to something more personal/private).

Keep in mind that with SurveyMonkey there is a maximum (with the free, basic account) of 10 questions and 100 survey responses. Another alternative that seems to offer unlimited questions/responses is KwikSurveys. If you feel this would be more suitable for your purposes, then I would suggest creating the revised survey using this software (especially if you want more than 10 questions or think you will get more than 100 responses).

As we’ve experimented with different online survey tools, there seem to be some advantages to using KwikSurveys, such as the unlimited questions (you can ask) and the unlimited number of response (e.g., SurveyMonkey only allows 100 response to any one survey, with the basic account). Also, in KwikSurvey, you can put that introductory blurb at the top of the survey. However, there are some important features that are only available in KwikSurvey if you upgrade and pay $10/month (something you don’t necessarily need to do), so your group has to decide how to play around with them. Again, there are other online free survey tools that you can play around with too. Report back if you find anything useful that we should know about (just “comment” on this post).

If anyone wants to suggest other software (and do some research on other viable options), please do so as a comment/reply to this post.

Before you get started, you should read a bit about how to create effective surveys. A good place to start is this help page from SurveyMonkey. At this point, you are not launching your survey yet: in class on Tuesday we will peer review the surveys and make necessary revisions, and you can make it go live after that. You should have a minimum of 10 questions for your survey.

For this survey, you should make sure to include a statement of use, which discusses what the project is, what the data that is being collected will be used for (class project), and that people’s information will remain confidential/anonymous. Including this statement and having users participant through “informed consent” is an important part of the research project and any fieldwork (we will discuss this more next week with the interviews, for which you will actually use consent forms before you interview anyone).

You should revise your survey according to the class feedback/discussion. Some things to think about in terms of revisions:

  • Think through the order of your questions (is it a logical progression)
  • Which questions are you going to make mandatory (require a response for, and which ones will be optional)?
  • What types of questions (comment boxes/free responses, multiple choice, ranking, etc.) will you use? Remember that different types serve different purposes: think about the data you want to collect, and how the types of questions will encourage (or discourage) participation in the survey.
  • Be as specific as possible (if you mean the City Tech Computer Club, state that: not just the “Computer Club”)
  • You may even consider having multiple surveys (for example, a group working on smoking on campus would consider having two separate surveys: one for smokers, one for non-smokers)
  • If relevant, demographic information (such as age range, gender, etc.)
  • proofread/edit your survey

I made comments on each group’s surveys, but here are some general thoughts for revision:

  • It is a good idea to inform your participants (in that introductory blurb) how long the survey should take. Since the surveys should only take a few minutes to complete, this should be a good way to convince people to take it. You can do this in SurveyMonkey. To do so, at the start of the survey, click “Add New Page” and then you can put a title and text explaining the survey.
  • It is also a good idea to provide some background/contextualizing information for the survey/topic, so your participants can understand that survey.
  • Make sure you indicate (by choosing this setting when creating the questions) whether the question is mandatory/required or not. I would suggest making the majority of the questions mandatory (which means that the survey cannot be answered without participants answering them).
  • Remember that satisfaction/dissatisfaction questions (do you like/not like something) are useful, but only to a certain extent. General dissatisfaction only confirms there is a problem, but doesn’t provide insight into how to solve that problem (and remember that the goal of the project is to provide context-specific recommendations for improvement). Therefore, make sure to ask questions that are more specific.
  • As we discussed, it would be helpful to have an open-ended (free response/text box) question at the end of the survey, that says something like, please list any additional questions/comments related to the topic. You will likely get interesting information here that you didn’t originally anticipate, and that may be useful for your project.
  • Make sure to delete all the data (reset the surveys) from your peer reviews this week. When you launch the survey, there should be no responses. Do not edit questions once the survey is launched (this will taint the data).
  • Publicize the survey as much as possible: through social media, e-mail, in person. You can print out the blurb/link to the surveys and hand them out in classes/on campus, so people can go take the survey. You can also walk around campus with tablets/mobile devices and ask people to take the survey on the spot. You can also print out surveys and ask people to write them out/give them back, but remember that you will then need to input the data yourself. Everyone should aim for at least 60-80 responses (remember, SurveyMonkey will only let you get 100 responses).
  • Each group will launch/publicize its survey no later than the week of Thanksgiving, and aim to have preliminary results to report by the next class after the break.

As always, I am available to meet with your group outside of class to discuss your project and to look at further drafts of surveys.


You will make a new blog post by Friday night (11/21) class (categorized as “Surveys”) that:

  • Lists the hyperlink link for the revised survey
  • Provides a paragraph that explains the context of the survey and how the survey data will be used (this was supposed to be done by today’s class/the first draft of the survey, but most groups are missing this crucial section)
  • A collaboratively written reflective discussion (at least 3 full paragraphs) of the revisions you made, why you made them (in terms of the data you want to gather), and how you plan to launch/publicize your survey (whether you will use paper surveys too and then input the data).

This is a collaborative revision: as a group, you should discuss what needs to be changed/why, then revise the survey, and then reflect on those revisions.

By Sunday, 12/7, you will write a blog reporting/analyzing/discussing the results of your survey (make sure to post the link to the final draft of the survey, the one that was launched, at the top of this post). You should include a written discussion as well as statistical results (in both numbers as well as screenshots of your online survey’s tool’s statistical analysis so we can see this data visually represented). Categorize as “Surveys.”