Tools of the trade: Survey Monkey

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Last year I was asked to do an attendee evaluation for a national meeting Envision hosted for some 450 participants. “No problem,” I told my boss. And in a week, we had responses from 40 percent of our attendees – a response rate that rivals that of any professional research firm.

It turned out to be a quick and easy project, thanks to the online tool Survey Monkey. Here’s a look under the hood:

Survey Monkey lets you build online surveys using predefined question types. Once you’ve developed your survey, you can send it via email or paste an URL into a web page. Respondents click and type their way through the survey, and when they’re done, they’re directed to a web page of your choosing. You can analyze the data in real time as the responses come in.

When you start building your survey, you can choose a color scheme and upload a logo, to give your survey a more “official” feel. I recommend you compose your survey offline, then use the excellent tools to build your survey – it’s easy to lose track of the content in this environment. You can choose from horizontal and vertical multiple choice formats, multiple response questions (“Please choose all that apply”) matrix questions and questions with missing/open ended responses. Once you’ve developed some questions, you can easily copy, modify and move them. At any point you can preview your work, or even send the survey to a friend to test (you can easily wipe your data clean before you send out the final version).

Survey Monkey allows you to build in branching logic (although that took a little bit of trail and error for me to master).

Survey Monkey has several sending options, including the ability to send reminders to only people who have not yet responded. In this mode, you can also associate a set of responses to a particular respondent. When you’re achieved your response goal or hit your deadline, you can close the survey for final analysis.

If you’re just looking for descriptive statistics, such as means and modes, you’ll probably be happy with the analytical tools in Survey Monkey. You can do limited bi-variate analyses using the “filter” command. While Survey Monkey does allow you to export your data to Excel and a couple of other formats, it does not directly work with SPSS or other dedicated statistical packages.

You may be able to get along fine with the free version of Survey Monkey. My account costs only $20/month and has easily repaid itself many times over. A paid account gives you access to more powerful tools and can handle more responses.

If you have email addresses for a population that you need to survey (and that’s a big “if”) I highly recommend Survey Monkey. 

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I really like your blog. There is information here that will help me develop my tactics using social media. Survey Monkey is a good and easy to use tool. If I have clients who need to repeat online surveys, I can use Survey Monkey or others like Zoomerang. However, the systems do have some limitations. That is why I have my own system on a secured dedicated server. I also have a system for conducting focus groups online. Online services like Survey Monkey are great when the user has the expertise to write surveys that will provide information that meets research objectives. Often companies don't have experienced researchers or employees who have the time to develop and deploy well written surveys. I've found that I spend most of my time during the problem definition stage and the survey instrument development stage of each project. Also many of my clients don't understand sampling and proper interpretation of results. I really think it comes down to the risk involved in decision making and value. If information from a survey is to be used when making a risky decision it is better to consult with a research professional. If the risk is low and you have experience in sampling, writing surveys, and data interpretation, using Survey Monkey or one of the other services works well. I just started a blog to discuss online research at:
Please visit the blog when you can.


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This page contains a single entry by David Kamerer published on November 13, 2007 2:15 PM.

Liar, liar, career's on fire is the next entry in this blog.

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