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ENVS 111: Mixed Methods for Environmental Research

This research guide was created to support ENVS 111: Mixed Methods for Environmental Research.

Survey Research

Surveys are designed to:

  • Collect information from a small number of people to be representative of a larger number of people to be studied, for instance, the information about their:
    • Attributes
    • Attidudes
    • Behavior
    • Opinions
    • Preferences
  • Systematically draw information from a certain popular in order to:
    • Describe demographic information (e.g. age, gender, affiliation)
    • Draw patterns from the population studied
    • Explain trends out of phenomenon

There are several types of surveys, including:

  • Face-to-Face
  • Online (e.g. Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, Google Form)
  • Paper and pencil
  • Phone

How can I develop effective survey questions?

  • Clarity, simplicity, length, and acceptability are keys to creating effective survey questions.
  • Avoid complicated, long, and ambiguous questions.
  • Try not to address too many issues in one question.
  • Try not to ask too many questions in one survey.
  • Try not to ask difficult questions.

What question formats are there?

  • There are two question basic formats. Depending on your goal, you can use both combination in a survey:
    • Forced (closed-ended)
    • Open-ended

Can you give me some examples of closed- and open-ended questions?

  • Let's say you are interested in studying people's environment concerns through shopping habits:
    • Forced (closed-ended) question examples:
      • "Do you use a reusable shopping bag when you go grocery shopping?"
        • "Yes" or "No" (Note: Survey respondents are forced to choose one of the two)
      • "How frequently do you use a reusable shopping bag when you do grocery shopping?"
        • "Very infrequently", "Somewhat infrequently", "Occasionally", "Somewhat frequently", "Very frequently" (Note: Survey respondents are forced to choose one out of the multiple choices)
    • Open-ended question examples:
      • "In the last 30 days, how many times have you used a reusable shopping bag when doing grocery shopping?" (Note: Survey respondents are allowed to use either numeric values or text entries)
      • "Please describe why (or why not) you use a reusable shopping bag for grocery shopping." (Note: Survey respondents can freely write their answers if they want to)

Does ordering of questions influence survey results?

  • Yes, it does. The natural and logical flow of survey is important to collect good survey results.
  • Start and end the survey with easy questions.
  • Start the survey with most familiar questions.
  • Keep in mind that a high response rate does not guarantee a high survey completion rate - in many online surveys, people do not always complete a survey.

Do you have any other suggestions for conducting a good survey research?

  • Invitation: Creating a good invitation to participate in your survey is important. In your survey invitation (email) letter, try to include 1-2 sentences describing a purpose or goal of your survey.
  • Disclosure:
    • Mention length of survey
    • Ensure that responses are confidential
    • Ensure that participation is voluntary
    • Provide contact information in the cases where participants have questions about survey
  • Pretesting: Before administering a survey, make sure you test your survey in advance. Survey pretesting will help you determine the effectiveness of your survey.


Source: "Questionnaire Design." Conducting Survey Research: A Practical Guide, Linda Herkenhoff, and John Fogli, Business Expert Press, 1st edition, 2018. Credo Reference,