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Going to the Polls

American Flag
photo by jcolman, Creative Commons license

While you wait for the election returns, read up on a few web tools designed to turn you into a regular pollster. Online surveys can help you get feedback from colleagues, evaluate a program or service, or conduct scholarly research.

Start by reading A Few Good Survey Tools for Your Nonprofit, a recent article from Idealware which was posted on the TechSoup blog (both Idealware and TechSoup are great resources about technology for nonprofits). The article gives a concise overview of basic and advanced, free and fee-based survey products, features to consider, and how to find the tool that best meets your needs.

SurveyMonkey is one of the tools featured in the article. With a free SurveyMonkey account, you can create a survey with up to ten questions and receive up to 100 responses. Paid “Pro” accounts allow for additional questions and responses, downloadable data, customized reports, and more.

If you are a member of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association, you have access to the Pro version of SurveyMonkey as a benefit of membership. The username and password are listed on the (members only) PNC blog.

Also worth a mention is some relatively new survey functionality from Google.  With Google Documents, you can create a simple survey form and embed it in an e-mail message or blog post. Here is a sample survey you can take right now:

As you complete this survey, your responses are automatically tallied on a Google Spreadsheet. Check back later this week to see the results.

UPDATE 11/7/08: Wow, I guess Dragonfly readers really know their surveys! Here are the results.

Online tools can save you a lot of time in the distribution and data collection phases of survey research. Why not reinvest that saved time into writing better, more valid, more reliable surveys? NN/LM’s Outreach Evaluation Research Center can help. The guidebook and supporting materials for Measuring the Difference: Guide to Planning and Evaluating Health Information Outreach are freely available as PDF files on our website. Printed copies are available upon request. In the Pacific Northwest Region, contact Maryanne Blake or Nikki Dettmar with questions about evaluation.

2 Responses to “Going to the Polls”

  1. Hope Leman Says:

    Hi, Alison. By coincidence, I got an email yesterday saying that the renewal of my membership in PNC had been received and yes indeed, use of SurveyMonkey is a benefit of that membership.

    Good point here, “Why not reinvest that saved time into writing better, more valid, more reliable surveys?” I learned from the grant project I worked on last year how crucial and how difficult it is to write solid, clear survey questions. What seemed straightforward to me confused some of the community members I was polling. I should have read and studied the PDF you cite. Oops. Live and learn.

    I see SurveyMonkey used a lot by organizers of library conferences. It is always quite interesting to read the questions and nice to be asked for comments at the end.

  2. Alison Aldrich Says:

    Yes, survey writing is one of those things that seems easy until you try to do it! It is a good idea to test your survey questions on practice audiences.

    Thanks for reminding me I still need to renew my PNC membership 🙂