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When A Survey Was A Survey...

When A Survey Was A Survey...

Posted on 07/19/2013

If you're a country music fan you're probably familiar with Tim McGraw's song Back When. You may even remember the fizz in a pepper. But do you remember when a survey was a survey?

Back in my college days we took out our pen and paper and hand wrote survey questions. I thought I was cool typing the questions using my manual typewriter. By the time I started my first professional job my fingers were flying on an electric typewriter. First drafts of surveys were no longer created with pen and paper. When the blue line version was approved we waited a couple weeks to get the copies from the professional printers.

Years later my first online survey went out to 10,000 people around the world. Within a couple hours we had nearly a thousand responses. HumRRO has since sent out a survey to a sample of nearly 250,000. No pens or paper were required, but programming skills and knowledge about how to get through firewalls came in handy.

My task today is to figure out how to create an online survey that is a cross between an in-person interview and an online survey. I want it to give me results in as much detail as I can get conducting semi-structured interviews, but I want it to be completely automated. I've searched the Internet and discovered "interactive surveys" are surveys with the type of interactivity we put in online training. That's not exactly what I'm looking for. I posted the question on a social media discussion board and learned all kinds of things about mixed methods research, online focus groups, analyzing data on social media discussion boards, and the gamification of surveys. But again, that's not exactly what I'm looking for.

It's fascinating to see how technology has influenced our survey efforts. I'm still looking for my completely automated online solution that's going to keep respondents engaged and provide data comparable to in-person interviews. It's an intriguing challenge and one that I enjoy. There are many creative options available, but I haven't yet found exactly what I'm looking for. I have to admit, there are times when I miss back when... When a survey was a survey and life was simpler.


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