Institutional Research and Planning (IRP) has developed this guide to help you plan and create a Web-based survey that will provide you with useful and reliable results.

Guide to conducting surveys

The guide contains tips drawn from our survey experience and will help you design an effective survey, prepare your participant list, write convincing email invitations and  make the most of the resources available to you.

Clarify your survey’s objectives

The challenge consists of avoiding long questionnaires and thus including only those questions that will help you in making decisions. The length of your questionnaire could significantly affect your response rate and the proportion of incomplete surveys. A low response rate and a high incomplete rate increase the risk of obtaining biased results. According to some researchers, the questionnaire should not take more than 10 minutes to complete (Crawford, Couper and Lamias, 2001), while others set 20 minutes as the limit (Gunn, 2002).


Crawford, Scott D., Mick P. Couper and Mark J. Lamias (2001), “Web Surveys: Perceptions of Burden”,Social Science Computer Review, Vol.19 No.2

Hunn, Molly (2002), “Web-Based Surveys: Changing the Survey Process”, First Monday, Vol.7 No.12.

Porter, Stephen R. and Michael E. Whitcomb (2004), “Understanding the Effect of Prizes on Response Rates”, New Directions for Institutional Research, Vol.121

Umbach, Paul D. (2004), “Web Surveys: Best Practices”, New Directions for Institutional Research, Vol.121

Warriner, Keith, John Goyder, Heidi Gjertsen, Paula Hohner and Kathleen McSpurren (1996), “Charities, No; Lotteries, No; Cash, Yes:  Main Effects and Interactions in a Canadian Incentives Experiment”, Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 60