Statistics: Basic Concepts: Surveys

Lesson 11: Surveys



There’s a good chance you’ve taken a survey before. A survey is a questionnaire that gathers information from a group of people. Companies, governments, schools, and other types of organizations frequently send out surveys. 

Surveys can be filled out by hand. They can also be answered over the phone, through the mail, or submitted digitally. 

Watch this video to learn more:

The structure of a survey

In terms of their overall structure, the title appears at the top. This is followed by the objective or purpose of the survey. For example, maybe the town hall wants to ask residents about the construction going on in the center of town. A fitness club might ask its members which sports they play, so they know which amenities would be popular. 

After the title and objective, a survey consists of open-ended questions, close-ended questions, or a combination of both. 

  • Open-ended questions give people more freedom to write out a free-form answer.
  • On the other hand, close-ended questions require you to choose from one of the options provided.

After the answers are collected, this information is turned into a data set. This data set is often organized into graphs, which might be included in a report. Graphs allow viewers to visualize the data, making it easier to understand and interpret. 

Steps for creating your own survey

  • Step 1: Give your survey a title. The title should be short and to-the-point, like “Questionnaire for Mr. Smith’s Gym Class,” or “Jojo’s Bakery: Customer Satisfaction Survey.”
  • Step 2: Write an objective. This should clearly explain why the survey is being conducted, and how the information will be used. Will the answers be kept anonymous? In other words, will participants’ answers be private? If so, let them know this so that they feel comfortable being honest. 
  • Step 3: After you’ve decided what information to collect, start writing your questions. They can be open-ended, close-ended, or a combination of the two. Remember that if you need to make a graph later on, you can only do this with information from close-ended questions

  • Step 4: Select the group of people you are going to survey. They can be customers, members of a team, or a company’s staff. (If the group of participants is very large, you could use sampling. We’ll explain sampling in the next lesson).
  • Step 5: Conduct or distribute your survey. This can be done through email, over the phone, by mail, or through a digital platform like Survey Monkey. It’s always good to have a deadline for when the survey should be completed. In addition, consider offering an incentive, or a prize for completing it. 
  • Step 6: Once you have gathered your results, you can organize them into a graph or even make a report. What conclusions can you draw from your survey? Remember to inform the participants about the results, since they provided you with valuable data. 

In the next lesson, we’ll explore sampling and how it can be used to collect data.