Surveys are the most commonly used method to gather quantitative data on your target population, program participation, and outcomes.

There are strengths and limitations of collecting data with surveys. Learn more here.

Administering surveys

Surveys may be filled out by participants or administered by an interviewer. Read more to decide
which method would work best for your participants.
Choosing or creating a survey

Although commonly used, surveys can be very difficult to design well. To avoid common survey design pitfalls:
  • Work with an evaluation professional to choose or create your survey
  • If choosing an existing survey: Use a survey that has been previously tested and has known reliability and validity
  • If creating or adapting a survey: Use the suggestions in this toolkit to design your own survey or tailor an existing survey to your program and target population, including the resources below

Make your survey accessible and appropriate

  • Age: If you are surveying young children, make sure that your language is simple and short. Consider surveys that use pictures or smiley faces to indicate satisfaction.
  • Education and/or English ability: For participants with limited English ability or literacy, make sure the language is appropriate. If possible, offer the survey in the language most commonly spoken by participants.
  • Sensitive topics: If a topic you are asking about is sensitive to your audience, take extra care with question phasing and response options. Include an “additional response/other” option with a “please specify” open-ended space to make sure respondents are able to answer in their own words.
Make the survey easy to understand and complete

  • Keep the survey as short as possible. This will help keep respondents engaged and more likely to complete the whole survey.
  • Pilot test. Test your survey with a few participants to make sure all questions and response options are clear. Revise confusing or difficult questions before you administer the survey to all program participants.
  • If the survey is self-administered, provide clear instructions. Tell participants how to complete the survey. Explain the survey scale(s), how the data you are collecting will be used, and how information will be handled (these points should also be well articulated in interviewer-administered surveys.)
  • If the survey is self-administered, use attractive fonts, colorful paper, and pay attention to layout. Surveys printed on brightly colored paper generate higher responses. Use fun font types or colors for young people, and make sure that content is not too crowded on each page. Font color, spacing, and formatting changes are options available on many online survey platforms as well.