Surveys

There are numerous different ways to use surveys and they can be adapted to focus on any desired area of research or to suit different groups of participants.

Research method Preparation time Time to gather data Time to analyse data Not suitable for ... Does data indicate wellbeing? Who, what, where people experience wellbeing? Is it an activity in itself?
Surveys If using standard questionnaire, very little time. More time needed for devising own questions Depends on how survey is administered (e.g. online or paper) Depends on size and scope of survey (e.g. closed versus open questions) Self-administered not suitable for people who have limited writing skills, Online not suitable for people who don’t use/have access to the internet Yes, with appropriate questions Yes, with appropriate questions No
Suitable for:

  • anyone who can read and write
  • people who find it difficult to talk in front of group
  • large groups where there is insufficient time for other methods.

What information is collected?

  • can be used to identify indicators
  • can be used to identify who, what, where.

How is information collected?

Watch out for:

  • surveys are very simple to use for evaluation but it is harder to write rigorous non-biased questions for research
  • bias - e.g.  setting questions that encourage people to answer in a particular way
  • response rate – if you are sending surveys out you may have a fairly low response rate, especially if you are not in regular contact with participants. Handing out a paper survey at the end of a session might ensure a higher response rate
  • ensure your questions are clear without being leading. Your respondents may interpret your questions very differently, which can make it difficult to compare answers
  • ensure that there is a breadth of multiple choice answers to choose from or responses will necessarily end up backing-up your own beliefs
  • if you are using another person to hand out and collect the survey (e.g. the teacher of a school group) make sure that you have buy-in from them so that they see getting them back as important. You could brief staff before a session and perhaps ask them to appoint one member of staff to be responsible for asking students about each session or giving out and collecting the surveys
  • make sure that the language you use is suitable for and understood by the group taking the survey
  • an online questionnaire might be more appropriate as a follow-up for one-off sessions where you don’t know participants.

Methods

Paper survey/questionnaire

Materials needed: copies of paper survey, pens/pencils, clipboards or something to lean on.

Method: hand out the survey, perhaps during some ‘downtime’ e.g. during lunch or at the end. Explain to people what the survey is about and that there are no right or wrong answers. Also explain that it is anonymous (if it is going to be) so that no-one will know who has answered what. Tell people where to leave their completed survey (e.g. in an envelope/ box) to retain anonymity if needed.

Adaptations: if you are working with a regular group you could use survey questions as a basis for getting feedback from participants as they travel to and from the woods together e.g. give a staff or group member a list of questions to ask the group such as what did you enjoy/not enjoy? What did you find easy/challenging? Do you remember anything significant about last session?

Example: this example survey from the Folly Wood Project was used as part of their research.

Online survey

Materials needed: online survey tool such as SurveyMonkey or SmartSurvey.

Method: make sure you have a method of distributing your survey e.g. email addresses, a key worker, a school teacher. Create your survey using the online tool. You may be able to incorporate the research consent form into the survey itself, and have an information sheet about the project available to download.