woman on pencilA survey is an effective tool for collection information for decision-making activities. Consider using surveys with some of the following people:

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What does a survey look like?

Explore some of the following surveys. Compare the ways they ask questions. Look at the layout of the page. What do you like and dislike about the survey?

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How do you create a survey?

Identify a goal or purpose. Your first step is to identify a single goal or purpose. The survey should deal with a significant issue. You don't want to spend your valuable time collecting information on an issue that doesn't matter. In addition, make certain the information can't be found in another location. In other words, you may be able to find the information you need in circulation statistics or by observaton.

Let's say you're interested in the use of your collection for leisure versus academic activities. The topic is worthwhile, but much too broad. You may narrow it down to magazine use. Who uses the magazines and why? What would happen if you didn't carry certain magazines? What are the most popular magazines? These are all interesting questions that could be explored with a survey.

Describe your audience. Your next step is to identify you audience.

Develop questions. Next, develop specific questions that will be useful in your program. Remember that you'll need to tabulate and draw inferences from questions. Ask questions that will give you useful information.

Car and Driver magazineGeneral questions are a poor use of time. What does the question, "do you read magazines?," tell you? Not much. You don't know where they get the magazines, when or why they read them. You don't even know how often they read. Besides, who cares? How is this information going to help you? If you ask specific questions that require specific answers, you'll get the information you're seeking.

For example, have you ever checked out Car and Driver from our library? Or, have you ever read Car and Driver in the center. If so, when? How often? You may find out from a list of these questions that the magazine Car and Driver is very popular for in-center reading. Your circulation statistics may not reflect it's actual popularity.

Create the instrument. Your survey should be simple and direct. Begin with a short explanation of the purpose of the survey. The people completing your survey need to know that their participation is important and appreciated. Your directions should be clear and concise. The user shouldn't have to guess at what to do. They should be told to "circle an answer" or "check only one option." Organize the questions so that all the similar question types are together. For example, all the Yes/No questions should be clustered together. The open-ended questions may be placed at the end of the page. Limit the length of the survey to no more than 2 pages. One page back to back is a good option.

Phrase questions so that they are not likely to be misinterpreted. Get rid of general questions that aren't necessary. Relate the question directly to the scale you will be using. If it's a yes/no question, don't provide the options excellent, good, fair, and poor.

When developing a survey, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are my questions too long and complex?
    Will anyone take the time to complete the survey?
  2. Is the survey worth the time and money?
    Who will tabulate the results?
  3. Will the patrons give me what I want or what you need?
    Is the survey from the library or the principal?
  4. Is the layout of the survey reasonable and clear?
    Is it easy to follow and use?
  5. Are the questions easy to answer?
    Do you circle or check rather than write out long answers?
  6. Will students or faculty answer honestly?
    They may be scared they'll hurt your feelings.
    Provide directions about the importance of honesty.

Conduct the survey. You need to decide the logistics of conducting the survey. How will you handle short answer questions? Are you going to tabulate the data by hand or use a computer scored sheet? Maybe you could create an online survey using a tool such as DiscoverySchool Quizcenter or 4teachers Quizstar.

Where will the survey be given? Some ideas are listed below:

Tabulate the results. If you're conducting a survey, you'll need to organize and interpret the results. You may use a tally sheet or electronic spreadsheet. Keep in mind that more complex questions will lead to more involved methods of calculation. Close-ended questions are the easiest to score, but may not provide the information you need. Weight the information you will gain with the time it will take for organization and analysis.

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Check Your Understanding

Examine the following questions. Many of them are ambiguous. What do you think? Would you be able to use the information from these questions? Why or why not? How would you modify the questions so they are more useful?

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Make It Real

collectionCollaborate with a library media specialist on the creation of a survey to collect data for a particular need or project.





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