Learning patterns/What to expect when doing a survey

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A learning pattern forSurvey
What to expect when doing a survey
problemin a sentence, please describe the problem this pattern addresses after 'problem='
solutionin a sentence, please summarize the solution this pattern provides after 'solution='
creatorEGalvez (WMF)
created on29 October, 2015

What to expect when doing a survey?[edit]

Length of time[edit]

Developing and administering a survey can take a long time depending on what kind of survey you are doing. But often, surveys will take longer than you expect. The reason for this that (1) they should be designed with input from a variety of people and shouldn't be done with just one person -- sending the survey around for feedback on question design takes up time, and (2) surveys should be open to collect responses for at least one week if it is an online survey (unless you reach your target response rate sooner). Finally, you have to analyze results and publish the results for people to read, especially since you asked them for information and you should be willing to share it back with them.


A survey has many steps and phases that sometimes happen at the same time or at different times. In general, you can divide a survey into a few milestones:

  • Overall strategy and planning
  • Defining scope and goals
  • Question development
  • Testing
  • Translation to other languages (if applicable)
  • Distribution / Data collection
  • Reporting
  • Thanking participants

You can find more information about each in the survey support desk

People & skills needed[edit]

Here are some people or skills who might help you with your survey. The list below is mainly for complex surveys, but you can see some of the skills you might need for doing a simpler survey:

  • A survey researcher can help you form the questions you wish to ask. Questions can take a lot of time, and it requires understanding how to design questions. Just about anyone can write a question, but writing a good question for a survey is a meticulous process. The internet provides many sources of help as well.
  • A facilitator or focus group researcher can help you find information from your target audience. They can help to figure out what questions you could ask. This is often optional, but very important for surveys that will result in expensive decisions.
  • Wikimedians who work on meta are very important - they can help to set up mass message, translation, or set up the banner for you.
  • Data analysts can help you to map out your survey sample, and they can help you analyze the results when they come in
  • If you are doing a multilingual survey, translators are needed at three or more stages. They can help you translate the survey to many languages, they also need to double check the translations, and if any changes are made to one language version, all other languages should reflect the same change. Finally, translators are needed to translate fill-in responses. They might also assist with translating messaging (e.g. mass message or banners)
  • Writers and graphic designers can be helpful in reporting out the data. Communications is very important with survey data, so its important to have someone either prepare your report, or review your report for any issues. A designer can be very helpful in using graphics to report your data.

Getting help[edit]

If you have questions with any of this email surveys@wikimedia.org to reach the Survey Support Desk. You can also check out the Category:Survey skills to find other Wikimedians who have experience with surveys.


  • The largest cost with surveys is usually time. Surveys can easily take 30 hours or more for an individual, especially if it is a larger project. Of course there is always the back and forth to make sure enough people have reviewed your survey questions.
  • The survey product you use could cost some money. Google offers free survey software (google forms), and there are other similar services, like SurveyMonkey. If you are doing a more complex survey and don't have the resources to purchase software, the Wikimedia Foundation offers 2,000 responses for Qualtrics to anyone in the movement for free. Email surveys@wikimedia.org for more information.
  • If you must, you can pay for translation by companies. Its important to have someone review translators after a company translates, to make sure the translations are accurate.

This is a Survey Support Desk learning pattern

Related patterns[edit]

External links[edit]