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How to Conduct Surveys

How to Conduct Surveys
A Step-by-Step Guide

Sixth Edition

January 2016 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Packed with new topics that reflect today’s challenges, the Sixth Edition of the bestselling How to Conduct Surveys guides readers through the process of developing their own rigorous surveys and evaluating the credibility and transparency of surveys created by others. Offering practical, step-by-step advice and written in the same clear and accessible style as author Arlene Fink’s other works, the book focuses on choosing the appropriate type of survey, writing survey questions and responses, formatting the survey, deciding on the characteristics and numbers of respondents to include, choosing how often to survey respondents, and analyzing and reporting the results. 

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About the Author
Chapter 1: Conducting Surveys: Everyone Is Doing It
What Is a Survey?

When Is a Survey Best?

Self-Administered Questionnaires and Interviews: The Heart of the Matter

The Friendly Competition

A Survey Continuum: From Specific to General Use

Ethics, Privacy, and Confidentiality

Children and Survey Ethics

International Surveys

Formal Standards for Ethical Surveys

Chapter 2: The Survey Form: Questions, Scales, and Appearance
The Content Is the Message

Define the Terms

Select Your Information Needs or Hypotheses

Make Sure You Can Get the Information

Do Not Ask for Information Unless You Can Act on It

Writing Questions

Organizing Responses to Open-Ended Survey Items: Do You Get Any Satisfaction?

Rules for Writing Closed Survey Questions

Responses for Closed Questions

Rating Scales

Children and Surveys

Online Surveys

Plain and Simple Survey Questions and Responses


Chapter 3: Getting It Together: Some Practical Concerns
Length Counts

Getting the Survey in Order

Questionnaire Format: Aesthetics and Other Concerns

Branching Questions, or the Infamous “Skip” Pattern

Administration: Who Gives What to Whom?

Reliability and Validity: The Quality of Your Survey

Selecting and Adapting Surveys

Finding Surveys on the Web

The Survey Is Put on Trial: Guidelines for Pilot Testing

A Far-Reaching World: Surveys, Language, and Culture

Chapter 4: Sampling
Sample Size and Response Rate: Who and How Many?

Random Sampling Methods

Stratified Random Sampling

Simple Random Cluster Sampling

Systematic Sampling

Convenience Samples

Other Convenience Sampling Methods

Finding the Sample: Who Is In? Who Is Out?

How Large Should Your Sample Be?

Statistical Methods: Sampling for Two Groups and an Intervention

Response Rate


Margin of Error and Confidence Level

Chapter 5: Survey Design: Environmental Control
Which Designs Are Available?

Cross-Sectional Survey Designs

Longitudinal Surveys

Experimental Survey Designs

Other Survey Designs: Normative and Case Control

Case Control Design

Survey Design Validity

Surveys, Research Design, and Internal and External Validity

Surveys With Qualitative Data: Threats to Internal and External Validity

Chapter 6: Analyzing and Organizing Data From Surveys
What Is Typical Anyway? Some Commonly Used Methods for Analyzing Survey Data

Surveying Differences: Usual Methods

To Be or Not to Be: Statistician or Qualitative Analyst?

Content Analysis, Open-Ended Responses, and Comments

Putting the Cart in Front of the Horse: Selecting Analysis Methods

Data Management

Chapter 7: Presenting the Survey Results
Reproducing the Questionnaire

Using Tables

Drawing Pie Diagrams

Using Bar Graphs

Using Line Graphs

Drawing Diagrams or Pictures

Writing the Results of a Survey

Survey Reporting Checklists and Guides

The Oral Presentation

Slide Presentations

Oral versus Written Reports: A Difference in Conversation


The book is very readable with an easy-to-follow structure and lots of practical advice. For example, Fink provides a useful table on the pros and cons of using different survey types. Examples taken from real-life surveys are also used to good effect throughout, helping to make the text more engaging. The summing up section at the end of each chapter is also a helpful reference for readers to know where to find what they might need and to check their own understanding.

Jo Lea
National Children's Bureau

One of the best introductions to survey research, especially given the continuously updated focus on digital fronts.

Professor Michalis Kontopodis
School of Education, Sheffield University
September 23, 2022

Was a good resource for DBA students conducting research.

Dr Mike Guerra
Business Admin Economics Prog, Lincoln University
January 27, 2016

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

For instructors

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