Surveys are an indispensable data collection tool used across many fields and disciplines. They offer a structured approach to gathering information directly from participants and/or stakeholders, typically using a questionnaire (electronic or pencil-and-paper) that is disseminated to a population or population sample. Surveys are designed to achieve specific research aims; when analyzed, they help data users, researchers, organizations, policymakers, or community members identify trends, attitudes, and outcomes within the surveyed population. Surveys often allow for quantitative analysis and statistical inference, and they are also rich sources of qualitative data. They range from fairly easily implemented and cost-effective to extremely complex and expensive, depending on the design and scale.

Surveys play a pivotal role in robust local data ecosystems and drive community transformation and informed decision-making. Surveys can empower stakeholders, such as community health practitioners, political pollsters, and government entities like the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, to gather crucial insights that shape strategies and policies for impactful outcomes.

Data collection by many methods, including surveys, has a history of being extractive and failing to benefit the people upon whom the research focuses. Worse still, data has been weaponized against people and communities, perpetuating discrimination and other data misuse. In a community setting, surveys can increase our understanding of who is thriving and who isn’t, as well as help us understand why or why not. For example, In Their Own Words: Young People Describe the Impact of COVID-19 was a survey designed and implemented by youth leaders that collected information about how the pandemic and systematic racism have affected the mental health of young people living in King County, Washington. Results from this survey have been used to inform youth-led programming such as the Youth Healing Project, which directly funds youth leaders to develop and implement creative solutions to improve mental health and well-being. 

Surveys are a widely used data collection tool across various fields and disciplines and in community settings. In the digital age, surveys can be rapidly deployed electronically to capture real-time data. Leading practices emphasize privacy, equity, accessibility, transparency, and accountability. Surveying may have significant equity implications. While ideally, they are representative of the entire community of interest, surveys are only as good as their design and implementation.

Best practices such as the following can help ensure best equity outcomes:

    • Driving up response rates
    • Oversampling in marginalized communities
    • Paying respondents for their time and sharing of lived experience
    • Providing a variety of response formats in all relevant languages
    • Capturing demographic information to support disaggregation where appropriate.

    Resources & Tools

    Bold letters
    Maps and Data
    Story - Original
    Brought to you by Community Commons
    Screen capture of Health-Related Surveys for Epidemiologists webpage
    Health-Related Surveys for Epidemiologists
    Resource - Data Bank/repository
    Screen capture of Sage Data - Data Basics
    Sage Data - Data Basics
    Resource - Website/webpage
    Brought to you by SAGE Publications
    First page of What is a Survey booklet
    What is a Survey
    Resource - Book
    Cover page of Toolkit for Conducting Focus Groups document
    Toolkit for Conducting Focus Groups
    Resource - Guide/handbook
    Screen capture of Conducting Successful Virtual Focus Groups webpage
    Conducting Successful Virtual Focus Groups
    Brought to you by Child Trends
    First page of A Guide to Conducting Online Focus Groups guide
    A Guide to Conducting Online Focus Groups
    Resource - Guide/handbook
    Brought to you by Vital Strategies
    Screen capture of Conducting Surveys webpage
    Conducting Surveys
    Resource - Website/webpage
    First page of Focus Group Tip Sheet document
    Focus Group Tip Sheet
    Resource - Fact Sheet
    Brought to you by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    First page of Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group document
    Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group
    Resource - Guide/handbook
    Cover page of Introduction to Conducting Focus Groups document
    Introduction to Conducting Focus Groups
    Resource - Guide/handbook
    Screen capture of Statistics Every Writer Should Know webpage
    Statistics Every Writer Should Know
    Resource - Website/webpage
    Screen capture of Survey Explorer webpage
    Survey Explorer
    Resource - Data Bank/repository
    A collage of photos of people and community members, each with a different color overlay.
    An Introduction to Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA)
    Story - Original
    Brought to you by Community Commons
    Published on 09/19/2023
    Screen capture of Healthy Kids Colorado Survey Dashboard webpage
    Healthy Kids Colorado Survey Dashboard
    Tool - Data/mapping Tool
    Screen capture of Pennsylvania Cancer Statistics Dashboard webage
    Pennsylvania Cancer Statistics Dashboard
    Tool - Data/mapping Tool

     Related Topics

    Card image
    Geospatial Data

    Card image
    Data Equity

    Card image
    Data Granularity