10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Designing Student Surveys

Blocksurvey blog author
Written by Wilson Bright
May 29, 2024 · 4 mins read

A student survey is a tool used to collect information about students' opinions within the context of their academic and campus experiences. The information collected is typically used to improve the educational program, resources, and student supportive services. All in all, an effective student survey yields data that can help those carrying it out to provide a better educational experience. However, it is easy to mess up when designing student surveys. Here are 10 common pitfalls to avoid when administering a student survey.

1. Overcomplicating Questions

One of the most frequent problems is getting too clever with questions, either by wording them too complexly, using big words or jargon that can make them seem like riddles, or not speaking in the correct language. Design for people who might not have an advanced education – ask your friends and family to provide possible answers and check that your questions are clear. Keep it simple. Don’t try too hard. Expectations of engagement can lead researchers to craft responses with multiple parts that might confuse respondents.

2. Leading Questions

Avoid priming “leading” questions that suggest the right answer: “Don’t you think that …” or “Wouldn’t you agree that …?”. Those approached will seek to answer correctly rather than honestly. Thus, your data will be tampered with. This is why it’s important to be neutral with questions. If you think that’s too hard for you, you can always ask for help online. There are many websites where you can pay to write essay or compose a student survey – their writers will do any task perfectly. They can also read through your survey and help you identify and fix any mistakes.

3. Neglecting Survey Logic

Leonard Nimoy once said, “Logic is the beginning of wisdom”. You should take this principle into account when creating your survey. Not using survey logic to tailor the experience based on responses can lead to irrelevant questions. Utilize branching and skip patterns to keep the survey relevant and engaging for each respondent, improving the overall quality and accuracy of the data collected.

4. Asking Too Many Open-ended Questions

Though they allow for rich responses, open-ended questions are hard for respondents to answer and difficult for you to parse. Use them sparingly. Instead, mix in more multiple-choice or Likert-scale questions that are easier for participants to answer – and for you to sum up.

5. Inadequate Response Options

At a minimum, every question must allow for a full and appropriate range of responses. Not doing so risks angering participants or forcing them into choices that do not reflect their actual opinions or experiences.

6. Overlooking Demographic Questions

You could render your data unusable by forgetting to include a key demographic question, such as asking how old someone is or their ethnic background. Likewise, you could achieve a similar result by asking questions that are tedious to answer or too personal for the respondent, especially if they feel those questions are irrelevant to the purpose of the survey.

7. Making All Questions Mandatory

Trying to force each respondent through to the end of the online experience can lead to survey fatigue and respondents abandoning the survey altogether. You need to make sure that only the most essential questions are mandatory and allow respondents to ‘branch off’ from any questions that they do not feel comfortable answering or that they perceive as irrelevant.

8. Ignoring the Survey's Length

Busy students don’t always participate in long surveys. Statistics show that only about 9% of respondents complete long questionnaires. Thus, keep your survey short but don’t reduce the quality of your questions. A good measure is whether your survey takes more than 10-15 minutes to complete.

9. Lack of Pre-testing

If your survey is not pre-tested on a small group of people first, a number of flaws may not become apparent until full deployment. Here’s how you pre-test your survey:

Step Description
Select a Small Sample Choose a small group of people from your target audience to take the survey. This group should be representative of the larger population you plan to survey.
Conduct the Pre-test Have the sample group complete the survey. Observe and note any confusion or difficulties they have with the questions.
Gather Feedback After they complete the survey, ask participants for feedback on how clear and understandable the questions were. Find out if any questions were particularly confusing or led to misunderstandings.
Analyze Responses Look at the responses to see if they are providing the type of information you need. Check for any patterns of misunderstanding or unexpected answers that could indicate a problem with the question's wording or structure.
Revise Accordingly Use the feedback and observations from the pre-test to make necessary revisions to the survey. This might involve rewording questions, adjusting the layout, or changing the response options.

10. Ineffective Data Analysis Plans

Creating and sharing a survey without a solid plan for analyzing the results can lead to missed insights. Here's how to avoid that:

  • Develop an Analysis Plan: Set up your strategy for analyzing responses before launching the survey.
  • Define Key Metrics: Identify the data most valuable for making decisions.
  • Ready Reporting Tools: Ensure you have the necessary tools to analyze the data as responses come in.
  • Align Goals with Questions: Craft your survey questions to gather data that aligns with your analysis plan.

This approach ensures you can make informed decisions based on the survey data you collect.

Sharpen Your Survey Skills

Armed with this checklist, avoiding such pitfalls when designing surveys for your students can greatly enhance the quality of your data and the conclusions you can draw from it. Each point is a step toward creating a survey that not only tends to get submitted by more respondents but also produces data that’s clearer and more specific to your goals. With careful planning and thoughtful question construction, your survey can accurately echo the voice of its respondents.

10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Designing Student Surveys FAQ

What is the most common mistake to avoid when designing student surveys?

Focusing on too many questions, leading to survey fatigue and low response rates.

How can I ensure the questions in my student survey are clear and easy to understand?

Use simple lnguage, avoid jargon, and provide clear instructions for each question.

Is it important to pilot test my student survey before distributing it?

Yes, pilot testing cn help identify any confusing or ambiguous questions and ensure the survey is effective.

Should I include open-ended questions in my student survey?

Yes, open-ended questions cn provide valuable insights and allow students to provide more detailed feedback.

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blog author description

Wilson Bright

Wilson Bright is the co-founder of BlockSurvey. He is an avid crypto enthusiast, and his vision is to make BlockSurvey a go-to infrastructure for data collection with a focus on privacy and security.


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