4 Common Mistakes to Avoid During Survey Design for Dissertation and Thesis


Students learn how to carry out high-quality research through academic papers as recruiters tend to hand out essays every semester. All of the acquired research skills will be needed for your dissertation, thesis, or research project.

Depending on the area of focus of your research, you may need to design a survey to obtain important information. Done right, surveys offer the possibility of acquiring a large volume of useful data. But as you’ll come to find out, there’s an art to designing surveys. Chances are you’ve taken surveys in the past and your experience with those surveys isn’t the same. You feel like some are great while others may feel utterly useless.

If survey design is in your academic future, you’ll want to know how to go about it. From our experience, there are some common mistakes students make when designing surveys. Fortunately, these mistakes are avoidable with some thought and planning. And we hope to help you avoid the pitfalls of survey design by pointing out common mistakes made by students. Here they are:

The structure and flow of any survey determines whether respondents will be willing to answer it or provide honest feedback. Generally, people like it when their opinions are sought after. But how you design your survey can affect the response you receive.

The first thing to keep in mind is to ensure your survey is in line with the aims and objectives of your research. After all, the idea behind the survey is to obtain key data for your thesis. So, the entire design of the survey should be based on your set goals and objectives.

It’s important that the questions are worded clearly and in an intuitive, logical way. For example, exclusion questions should be asked upfront. So, if you want questions about men’s lifestyle, the first question has to reflect this and filter out unsuitable respondents.

Any question related to demographics should be asked towards the end. Provide a short overview of the survey at the beginning and give the estimated time to complete the survey. All of these will improve the experience of the respondents and motivate them to answer your questions well.

Academic surveys can be used for economic and social research, healthcare and medical research, sports and lifestyle research, business research, and so on. All these may involve people from different walks of life and some of them may not understand English or be native English speakers. In such situations, translating the survey into the preferred language of the respondents can improve user experience and help collect useful and valuable data.

So, for researchers focused on people that speak Spanish, you will need to offer the surveys in Spanish. However, translating surveys requires you to use the cultural or regional variations of the language and provide adequate context. Usually, you’ll need the help of a reputable translation service to properly translate your surveys into another language.

  • Too Long and Using Technical Language

As a rule of thumb, you should use plain and easy-to-understand words in a survey. Any technical term that cannot be easily understood by the target audience should be avoided. However, if you can’t avoid using certain technical terms, be sure to define such terms to ensure respondents know the meaning of such terms right away.

We don’t think we really need to elaborate on the need to make surveys short and concise. If you’ve answered surveys before, then you can understand why respondents detest long surveys. Answering questions can get very old fast and many people have a short attention span.

As mentioned earlier, let the respondents know how long a survey will take. Then, ask the most important question first so that if a respondent chose not to complete the survey, you’ll still have obtained some data from them.

It’s easy to make this mistake if you aren’t careful. Poorly constructed questions in survey design can be leading questions, loading questions, and vague questions.

Leading questions are worded to make respondents provide certain answers and are usually seen as manipulative by many people. Consider a question that says, “How satisfied are you with the fantastic healthcare you are receiving?” The question is forcing respondents to accept or acknowledge that they are receiving quality healthcare which may not be true.

Loaded questions contain assumptions about respondents without any facts to back it up. Consider this question, “Have you stopped eating Broccoli?” You are assuming the respondent eats broccoli and this may not sit well with people that don’t eat broccoli.

Vague questions tend to be open-ended questions. Ideally, you should close-ended questions for surveys. Open-ended questions can also be used but they should generally be limited to just a few.

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