3.2.2 Developing Your Own Survey: The Anatomy of a Survey

A survey refers to a set of questions that can be administered to people either in-person, over the phone or online. Survey questionnaires represent one of the most common and recognizable ways of collecting data. Below is a breakdown of the components of a survey followed by some tips for how to develop good survey in order to help you get started on creating one for your program or service.

While the key component of the survey tool is the set of questions you want to ask, there are a few other elements that are important to include in your survey. These are:

Preamble or an Introductory Explanation

This includes a few short sentences at the top of your survey to communicate why you are collecting data. If students or other stakeholders of your program or service do not understand why you are collecting data they may not be as invested in answering your questions. This is a good time to appeal to them so that they understand the value of taking the time to do the survey in terms of the programs and services they will receive in the future! It is also a good idea to indicate here how long the survey will take so that people have an idea – and keep the survey short so people are more motivated to do it! Anything more than a few minutes in today’s information-saturated age will reduce the response rate.


This is where you should clearly outline the elements of confidentiality that pertain to your survey – what information is confidential, if anything is NOT confidential, how data will be stored and used, how long it will be kept, etc.


Instructions about how to answer the questions on your survey help ensure that you clearly communicate what you want. This could be a simple note attached to the question such as ‘check all that apply’ or ‘rank in order of importance.’ Clearly stating a deadline for when surveys need to be submitted will also help with timely data collection.

Contact Information

Giving students and other stakeholders who may be completing your survey the option to contact you if they have questions or if they want to know more about your work is a good way of staying engaged with your target groups.

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