Center for Social Research

Research Tip: Designing Surveys Using Tables

Survey design is an integral part of our work here at the CSR. From the programs we evaluate to the research we conduct, the survey is still one of the leading measurement tools used for social research.  While surveys have undergone serious electronic transformation with the introduction and increasing capabilities of various software programs, paper surveys are still in high demand from our clients.

Because of the high quantity of paper surveys that we design, the CSR is constantly looking for ways to improve them for our clients. One survey design trick that consistently benefits us is putting the entire survey into a (partially) invisible table.

Why do we put our surveys into tables?

Tables are typically seen as data displaying devices, because this is the reason that researchers typically need them. However, tables become more useful when their function is understood as displaying information in a visually organized and understandable way. Researchers aim for this same organization and clarity in their surveys. Tables can create a clean, uniform survey layout while concurrently grouping similar survey elements together for greater comprehensibility.

How we put surveys into tables:

To put a survey into a table, we start by creating the table at the beginning of the survey building process. The amount of rows and columns can always be adjusted at any time to fit the contents of the survey. Then, we input all of our survey information.

Once complete, we decide which borders are helpful in creating an organized, understandable layout.

While putting a survey into tables may not be best way to design every survey, tables are a useful design tool for researchers to have at their disposal. Not only do surveys with unstructured layouts look clumsy, but they can also cause participants to answer questions inaccurately, creating validity problems within the research experiment. Therefore, to execute the best survey research possible, we at the CSR endorse the use of tables.

Posted by Michael Kelly on Monday, August 05, 2013 at 04:44 PM
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