While this blog has been mostly focused on social inequality topics, I have taught research methods in one form or another for years now. Teaching students how to design a survey can be tricky because the process is deceptively easy. Students think, “Hey, I have taken tons of surveys before. How hard can it be?” They then proceed to break every rule of good design you talked to them about in class.
A simple, quick, yet effective activity to teach good survey design is to have your students take a survey that is horribly designed. I tell my students that I want no talking and then pass out a survey about internet usage (download it here). Every question on the survey is either double barreled, leading, biased, or has response options that make no sense or overlap.
After a few minutes I tell them to stop and ask what they think of the survey. They uniformly say it’s awful. Students really like this activity- typically they laugh out loud when reading the questions. I then have them pair up and identify everything that is wrong with the questions. As a class we go through each question picking it apart. We then formulate new questions that don’t violate any of the basic survey design rules.
The activity is also beneficial because students get to take home an example of what not to do that they can compare their work to while creating their own survey. Pedagogically I really like this activity because it has the students playing an active role in their education. Also, the “bad survey” is formatted well so you can tell your students that their survey should look like the example you gave them, but with much better questions.
Download the Survey (pdf Version)
Download the Survey (Word Version)