Use the following guidelines to assess survey suitability:

Step 1: Which organization conducted the survey?

  • Does the organization have a reputation for producing quality research?
  • Are they a private polling company or a government agency?
  • Is the organization knowledgeable about the survey subject matter?
  • What methods do they use to guarantee the quality of their survey?
  • Who commissioned the survey and what influence did they have on the results?

Step 2: What is the survey methodology?

  • How was the survey designed?
  • What data collection method was used?
  • Who was the target population?
  • What was the sample size?
  • What sampling techniques were used?
  • What issues or questions were examined in this survey?
  • Is there substantial documentation about the methodology of the survey?
  • What is the rate of non-response?
  • If the non-response rate is high, how have the researchers dealt with this issue?

Note: Survey user guides or codebooks are a particularly useful sources of information.

Step 3: How is the questionnaire designed?

  • What types of questions were asked (open ended, etc.)?
  • Were the questions problematic (ambiguous, double barreled, double negative, etc.)
  • Were the questions biased (leading questions, etc.)?
  • Were the answer categories biased (mutually exclusive, inapplicable, etc.)?
  • How were the questions ordered?
  • If the questionnaire was self-administered, how was it laid out?

Step 4: Does the data meet your requirements?

  • Is the sample large enough for your research?
  • Does the survey reach the population you are studying?
  • How recent is the survey?
  • Is the survey available in a machine-readable format?
  • Does Data Services have the survey?

Surveys: Which survey is right for you? (PDF)