Survey Design Tip #2: Short and Sweet

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So how was your day today? Did you grab a coffee, sit at your desk, and then not move until lunch? Or, did you spend 20 minutes doing a quick check of your email, followed by a 10 minute discussion of a new product, followed by a 2 hour meeting during which time you checked your email and twittered? Did you watch TV last night? Did you patiently sit for the entire 60 minutes watching all the commercials or did you get up at every commercial for a drink, a snack, a peck on the cheek, an email, or a…. um…. pee break? My guess is you chose the second option in both cases.
So why do we expect survey responders to be able to sit through a 45 minute survey? Why do we expect them to do it once a week, every week? What could possibly cause them to be interested in a survey for that long when you don’t even do it in your regular life?
All we’re really doing with these long surveys is giving our precious survey participants reason to reconsider sharing their opinions, reason to let their attention wander, reason to move on to something else. Sure, long survey give you lots of detailed data, in depth information, and plenty of opportunity to run fancy schmancy multivariate statistics. But, with response rates following such a scary decline, it is high time the survey research industry reconsiders what a long survey is. On that note, tell me what YOU think is too long for a survey.

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