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How to Conduct Surveys

How to Conduct Surveys
A Step-by-Step Guide

Sixth Edition

January 2016 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Packed with new topics that reflect today’s challenges, the Sixth Edition of the bestselling How to Conduct Surveys guides readers through the process of developing their own rigorous surveys and evaluating the credibility and transparency of surveys created by others. Offering practical, step-by-step advice and written in the same clear and accessible style as author Arlene Fink’s other works, the book focuses on choosing the appropriate type of survey, writing survey questions and responses, formatting the survey, deciding on the characteristics and numbers of respondents to include, choosing how often to survey respondents, and analyzing and reporting the results. 

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About the Author
Chapter 1: Conducting Surveys: Everyone Is Doing It
What Is a Survey?  
When Is a Survey Best?  
Self-Administered Questionnaires and Interviews: The Heart of the Matter  
The Friendly Competition  
A Survey Continuum: From Specific to General Use  
Ethics, Privacy, and Confidentiality  
Children and Survey Ethics  
International Surveys  
Formal Standards for Ethical Surveys  
Chapter 2: The Survey Form: Questions, Scales, and Appearance
The Content Is the Message  
Define the Terms  
Select Your Information Needs or Hypotheses  
Make Sure You Can Get the Information  
Do Not Ask for Information Unless You Can Act on It  
Writing Questions  
Organizing Responses to Open-Ended Survey Items: Do You Get Any Satisfaction?  
Rules for Writing Closed Survey Questions  
Responses for Closed Questions  
Rating Scales  
Children and Surveys  
Online Surveys  
Plain and Simple Survey Questions and Responses  
Chapter 3: Getting It Together: Some Practical Concerns
Length Counts  
Getting the Survey in Order  
Questionnaire Format: Aesthetics and Other Concerns  
Branching Questions, or the Infamous “Skip” Pattern  
Administration: Who Gives What to Whom?  
Reliability and Validity: The Quality of Your Survey  
Selecting and Adapting Surveys  
Finding Surveys on the Web  
The Survey Is Put on Trial: Guidelines for Pilot Testing  
A Far-Reaching World: Surveys, Language, and Culture  
Chapter 4: Sampling
Sample Size and Response Rate: Who and How Many?  
Random Sampling Methods  
Stratified Random Sampling  
Simple Random Cluster Sampling  
Systematic Sampling  
Convenience Samples  
Other Convenience Sampling Methods  
Finding the Sample: Who Is In? Who Is Out?  
How Large Should Your Sample Be?  
Statistical Methods: Sampling for Two Groups and an Intervention  
Response Rate  
Margin of Error and Confidence Level  
Chapter 5: Survey Design: Environmental Control
Which Designs Are Available?  
Cross-Sectional Survey Designs  
Longitudinal Surveys  
Experimental Survey Designs  
Other Survey Designs: Normative and Case Control  
Case Control Design  
Survey Design Validity  
Surveys, Research Design, and Internal and External Validity  
Surveys With Qualitative Data: Threats to Internal and External Validity  
Chapter 6: Analyzing and Organizing Data From Surveys
What Is Typical Anyway? Some Commonly Used Methods for Analyzing Survey Data  
Surveying Differences: Usual Methods  
To Be or Not to Be: Statistician or Qualitative Analyst?  
Content Analysis, Open-Ended Responses, and Comments  
Putting the Cart in Front of the Horse: Selecting Analysis Methods  
Data Management  
Chapter 7: Presenting the Survey Results
Reproducing the Questionnaire  
Using Tables  
Drawing Pie Diagrams  
Using Bar Graphs  
Using Line Graphs  
Drawing Diagrams or Pictures  
Writing the Results of a Survey  
Survey Reporting Checklists and Guides  
The Oral Presentation  
Slide Presentations  
Oral versus Written Reports: A Difference in Conversation  

The book is very readable with an easy-to-follow structure and lots of practical advice. For example, Fink provides a useful table on the pros and cons of using different survey types. Examples taken from real-life surveys are also used to good effect throughout, helping to make the text more engaging. The summing up section at the end of each chapter is also a helpful reference for readers to know where to find what they might need and to check their own understanding.

Jo Lea
National Children's Bureau

Was a good resource for DBA students conducting research.

Dr Mike Guerra
Business Admin Economics Prog, Lincoln University
November 20, 2015
Key features


  • Discussion of validity and reporting of qualitative survey data addresses the values of and “threats” to the validity of qualitative studies, along with guidance on transparently reporting purposes and methods.
  • Discussion of margin of error and confidence levels prepares readers to be aware of imperfections in all surveys.
  • Coverage on surveys involving children addresses how to design a survey that reaches children, getting reliable and valid information, the differences between doing a survey for young children and doing one for teens, the difference between assent and consent in children, and how to accommodate ethics boards when surveying children.
  • Guidance on international surveys takes into account the increased use of smartphones and access to the Internet and helps readers respect cultural differences in designing and asking questions involving international audiences.
  • Coverage of the standard survey report checklists now required by many journals, businesses, and educational institutions prepares readers to produce transparent survey reports.
  • Many new practice exercises in every chapter promote hands-on learning to develop skills in analyzing, evaluating, and producing information.


  • Helpful examples make it easy to learn how to apply relevant concepts.
  • Summing Up sections that highlight each chapter’s most important concepts help readers master key content.
  • Making the Decision sections help readers make informed choices by citing the advantages and disadvantages at each waypoint.
  • Standard checklists for writing transparent survey reports prepare students to write and report on their own rigorous surveys.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

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