Designing Quality Survey Questionsthe book, the workshop, and the approach intentionally start with the word “design.” We can craft surveys, develop surveys, write surveys, etc. but when we take a design approach to them, the mindset is a little bit different. My co-author, Kimberly F. Leonard and I devote an entire chapter of our book to sharing how a human-centered design thinking process underpins our approach to survey design.

Recently, James Pann, Ph.D., evaluation consultant and Associate Professor at Nova Southeastern University acquired a copy of the book and told me in an email, “Really like it, very practical and different from other survey books available. For example, the incorporation of the design thinking approach.”

James wanted to chat with me about that aspect of survey design (along with a few others) to share with his students in a program evaluation course.

Here is some of what we cover in the interview:

  • how specific phases of a human-centered design thinking approach (we often refer to it as a respondent-centered approach) informs survey development and can aid in yielding useful, meaningful data.
  • how committing to your research or evaluation questions AND a written purpose statement for your survey can help keep you on track.
  • the importance of prototyping or pretesting a survey with respondents before administering it to the whole population.
  • a cautionary tale about developing surveys too quickly and without enough thought about who the respondents are.
  • how easy it is to make simple mistakes that introduce bias into your surveys.
  • what is important to include in a survey invitation to connect with and appeal to respondents.
  • how to know whether you should develop your own survey or find one already out there.
  • when a survey is not the right tool for your research or evaluation question.
  • one of my favorite survey stories about how empathy resulted in a 100% response rate for a survey.
  • a few tips on choosing survey software.
  • a few words on demographics… a HUGE topic in survey design.




Interested in a talk or workshop on any of the topics I offer? I’d love to chat with you.