Using surveys

Surveys are a very common way to get feedback from people and are used widely in healthcare.

In the NHS they are often used to understand the quality of services from the perspective of users. They enable us to quantify people’s opinions and feelings and build a general picture of what they think about the services we provide.

Surveys overview

  • Ideal for a large sample size and enable wide, representative groups to have a say
  • Ideal for collecting quantitative data (numbers), though some qualitative (narrative) data can be gathered too
  • Not used to capture detailed user stories
  • Quick and easy to both create and complete
  • Can be used to capture feedback in real time
  • You will need to consider how to process the data, particular if collecting it on paper

Ways to survey

There are lots of ways to survey people:

  • Face-to-face (either on paper or using a handheld device)
  • Online
  • By phone
  • By post
  • By text

Each approach has pros and cons, and the right approach for you will depend on your objectives and audience.

How to create a survey

  1. Decide the information you would like to collect
  2. Decide the format of the survey e.g. online, offline or both
  3. Draft appropriate questions that will gather the information you need
  4. Decide the right question format e.g. multiple choice, open text, a scale or something else
  5. Test your questions with a small sample to make sure they are clear

Tips for effective surveys

If you are thinking about designing a survey for your service, here are some things to consider:

  • Make the survey as short as possible
  • Ensure your questions and answers are unambiguous
  • Make sure your questions and answers allow for every type of respondent
  • Keep your question text neutral
  • Consider the complexity of the answer format e.g. question matrices can be confusing
  • Avoid yes/no questions, which can result in misleading answers from people who might be somewhere in the middle

It takes some practice to write a good survey… for lots of help, contact us at