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The test phase for a survey is a critical part of the development process. This is in essence your last opportunity to ensure that the survey is setup properly before sending it out to the wild. Once the survey is released changing it can in essence taint the final results of the data. Below are 3 critical tips to ensure proper testing of a survey
The first thing to validate is the survey's competency. Are there blatant spelling and grammar mistakes. Are there technical issues that your respondents may face (such as required plugins or logins, etc...). All of these could cause your respondents to loose interest in your survey and in essence leave. A good way to test survey competency is by having a few sample candidates go through the survey. Ask them questions about any difficulties they ran into or any errors they may have noticed in the survey text.
Another benefit of having a few people test the survey is that you can gather a few samples of how long it took to finish the survey. If the survey will require more then a few minutes, let your respondents know. This will enable them to put aside the required time to take the survey properly. This also helps to prevent them from getting frustrated when the survey appears to never end. Part of understanding how much time is required also includes evaluating whether the time is proper. The survey may very well be too long and you may loose valuable feedback as a result of its length. If you need to trim your survey down, look for questions that can be combined or questions that may be redundant. You may also need to stack rank the importance of your questions and simply remove the least important ones. Removing unimportant questions may seem like you are loosing valuable data - but in the long run you will be gaining more opinions for your data that matters more.
Make a list of concerns that you have that you want to get addressed with a pre-test. Ensure that you address them before releasing the survey to the wild. This may include confusing questions that need to be re-written, questions that end up being too lengthy or even technical issues encountered during the test. Even if you need to delay the launch of your survey - fixing issues that could taint the results is worth the effort.
Testing a survey is a critical part of your research process. In order to get the highest quality data out of your survey spend quality time on the test phase. To get the most out of your test phase ensure that you check for competency, you understand your survey length and you keep a list of concerns that you address before launching your survey.