By Chris Taylor, The Forgiven Wife
Surveys are a great way to learn about your readers’ experiences and ideas—but if you haven’t done one before, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some tips to get you started.
Decide what you want to learn.
Let’s say you have a vague idea that you’d like to learn about how married couples deal with in-laws. That’s a good subject, but it may not be enough to help you write clear questions that yield interesting and useful information. It helps to have a clearly defined subject or question. Asking about general issues with in-laws will give you a broad overview of information. Asking specifically about how to respond when in-laws offer unsolicited advice will give you more depth. Both the general and the specific have value, but it helps to know what you want.
Know what you plan to do with the survey results.
CMBA members have used surveys in different ways—to report on marriage-related subjects, to identify patterns of thought or behavior that can be used to encourage readers, help develop a sense of direction for the blog and blog topics, and to gather information that will be used for a planned blog post. Are you looking for data that can give you percentages or a ranking of some kind? Do you want people to write comments to give you some insight? If you have an idea what you want to do with the results, it will help you write a more effective survey.
Write your questions.
Consider the types of questions you want to ask, the order in which they appear, and the number of questions. The following links can guide you in writing your survey questions.
How to Write Good Survey Questions
The 10 Commandments For Writing Outstanding Survey Questions
Get The Most Out of Your Survey: Tips for Writing Effective Questions
8 Tips for Writing Effective Survey Questions
Choose your survey tool.
Two popular survey instruments are Survey Monkey and Google Forms. Survey Monkey can do some neat things with data analysis and is pretty easy for casual users. The free version limits you to ten questions and 100 responses. The user interface for Google Forms isn’t as slick, but you can export the results into a spreadsheet and do your own analysis.
A search for survey tools will show you quite a few other options as well. Look around until you find something that looks usable and meets your needs.
If your blog is a self-hosted WordPress site, you can find a number of plug-ins for surveys as well.
Work with your results.
For many of us, this is the fun part! It’s where we find out what our readers are thinking. You may find that some responses are just what you expected, whereas others are surprising in some way. The results can show you patterns and commonalities as well as interesting new information and insight.
Readers who responded to your survey will want to see the results. If you do a lot of surveys, consider having a category on your blog just for surveys. (See The Marriage Bed for an example.) You may want to write a few blog posts in which you discuss the results in depth.
A Couple Examples
The Forgiven Wife and Sex Within Marriage have both done recent surveys on premarital sex. While there is some overlap, they illustrate how surveys about the same subject for different purposes can look quite different.
The Sex Within Marriage survey asks primarily yes/no questions, with some open-ended questions where respondents can share a bit more if they like. Because yes/no questions are fairly quick to answer, Jay Dee can get away with asking a lot of questions. The questions ask about the kinds of premarital sexual activity as well as some general questions about contentment in the marriage. He uses the results to do some in-depth data analysis, which he shares here.
My survey, however, asks fewer questions. I want to gain some insight into women’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences to help me with an upcoming blog post. The emphasis is on the open-ended questions. Because these take a little more time and thought to answer than yes/no or multiple choice questions, I was careful to limit how many questions I asked. I am asking specifically about how women deal with any negative effects of premarital sex on their married sex life. While I’m interested in many of the things that Jay Dee asked about, I limited my survey to questions specifically related to the blog post I plan to write.