Creating effective surveys

Summarizing Markless on surveys:
A major pitfall of surveys is that they “often project designers’ preconceptions out to potential respondents” and thereby dilute the value of the responses. General tips: Give clear instructions for answering the questions! Don’t use library/technology jargon! Some types of questions we can use:

Closed questions: Questions with several answer choices (with check boxes), and with a catch-all at the end.
e.g. I will use the LIS website to:
Find resources X
Get technology help X (etc….)
Anything else? Please say what! X (with space for answer)
Open questions: May best follow closed questions, i.e. “Why is this?”
Simple checklists (with check boxes), and a catch-all at the end:
e.g. Why did you use the website today? Check all that apply
Find resources X
Look for information X
Get help from a librarian X (etc…)
Other, please say what! (with space for reply) X
Likert scales: Highly likely/highly desired with boxes to highly unlikely/highly undesired
e.g. I will return to use the website in the future to do X
select one box
Highly likely  X  X  X  X  X  X  Highly unlikely
Thurlstone scale: tracks agreement or disagreement with the question
e.g. I found what I needed on the website today X yes X no
Semantic differential: quantitative measures of topics usually addressed through qualitative means
e.g. The library website is
select one box
Good  X  X  X  X  X  Bad
Guttman scales: statements arranged in sequence to gauge strength of respondents’ view
e.g. Shifting LIS communications to web based tools:
select one box
Web based commun. will catch on quickly/completely replace current tools X
Web based commun. will require some adjustment, but will mostly work X
Web based commun. will be hard to sell, may or may not work X
Web based commun. will never work for our organization X

2 thoughts on “Creating effective surveys

  1. Jessica Isler

    I am happy to discuss this in more detail in our meeting tomorrow if everyone feels it is necessary–I simply did not want to unnecessarily take up meeting time.

  2. Elin Waagen

    Thanks, Jess – this is really great information – and will help guide our discussion tomorrow – thanks for summarizing and writing this up.


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