What problem does this solve?
At different points in a process or project you need to get different kinds of information from participants. The surveys you use to gather that information will need to include different questions, depending on the stage of your project. Are you brainstorming new ideas, or requesting feedback? Do you intend to put your survey results into action right away, or just report what you found?
What is the solution?
When deciding to survey, it is important to think about whether you are asking people about something that is happening, will happen or has already happened. Surveys can be used at different stages in a project to provide data for formative, iterative and summative evaluations.
- Surveying before you start (formative evaluation)
If you are planning to put on an activity (such as an Edit-a-Thon) or are looking for ways to support the editors in your community, you can use a survey for formative evaluation. Formative evaluation is the process of figuring out what the current state of affairs among your target population: What is the status quo? What do people like about it? What could to be improved? How should this project move forward?
Some questions that can be answered by this kind of survey include:
- why do people volunteer in dispute resolution noticeboards?
- what kind of help resources do new editors want most?
- what is the best social media channel for reaching out to college-aged women who may be interested in editing Wikipedia?
- Surveying after you finish (summative evaluation)
Summative evaluation is the process of assessing something that has already happened: who participated, what they thought about it, and what lessons might be learned from it.
- Surveying as you go (iterative evaluation)
In some long term projects, it can also be useful to deploy surveys while the project is still ongoing. This can help you get a sense of how well what you are doing is working, and how you might change it (assuming you have the means to do so). However, because surveys take time to create, deploy and analyze, you may not have the resources to survey people before, during and after your project, let alone perform multiple iterations. Realistically, using surveys for iterative evaluation may only be useful if you are able to gather and analyze your results very quickly and then make changes based on them.
other resources (links to surveys, articles about survey design, handy tools) related to this pattern