Monday, September 28, 2009
Day 44 - SurveyMonkey: A great tool for student researchers
Today, we're talking about research and how to accomplish a project with relative ease using a free online resource - SurveyMonkey.com. I'm currently working with the program to collect data for a major project. It's been about nine months since I started writing about my survey topic, and in just one week, I've accomplished so much - thanks to SurveyMonkey.
First, using just your computer and a web browser, you can create any type of survey (up to 10 questions) for free with the "intuitive" survey editor. It's easy to understand and the website guides you through each step. Select from over a dozen different types of questions (multiple choice, rating scales, drop-down menus, etc). Several powerful options allow you to require answers to certain questions, control the flow with custom skip logic, and even randomize the answer choices in order to eliminate bias.
If I could figure out this software, then anyone can. I'm assuming the application was named SurveyMonkey because it's so easy even a monkey could use it. I, for one, am not the least bit offended by the inference! For all of us non-traditional students, there are times when it is intimidating thinking that our much younger counterparts have an edge in school. This is an edge that's user-friendly - for all of us.
This survey resource allows you to change colors, sizes, and styles of all the elements in your survey, making it look just the way you want it to look. Upload a logo or photo, and save any custom themes you create to use in future surveys. One excellent thing to note is that there are never any advertisements on these pages, so the surveys have a clean and professional appearance.
Sending out the survey can be accomplished in a number of ways. Simply input an email address list and have SurveyMonkey send the invites for you or put a link in your blog or on your Facebook page. Collecting responses is simple, too. The software even gives you an option to stop collecting automatically when you reach a date or count you specify. For example, I asked it to stop taking responses for my current survey when I hit 1,000 - because I can't afford to pay extra for tabulation over that number. Many students receive grants to fund their research projects, and they can still use this even when aiming for higher numbers. The costs are reasonable. For surveys longer than 10 questions, you just sign up and pay a monthly membership fee (around $20) and ask as many questions as you need. Whether you've got money to spend on your project or not, it's likely you can accomplish your goals with SurveyMonkey.
The real fun to this convenient tool is tracking the responses. SurveyMonkey will even send out reminders to anyone who doesn't respond to your request, if you like. The program manages opt-outs automatically, too. The most exciting part of survey research is viewing the results as they are collected in real-time. You can watch live graphs and charts, and then dig in to get individual responses. You can even securely share the survey results with your professors. Powerful filtering and cross tabulation tools allow you to display only the responses you're interested in. With one click, you can download a summary of the results in multiple formats. If you're a statistics nut, you can download all of the raw data you've collected as a spreadsheet. Best of all, the data collected remains absolutely private.
Yes, I'm a fan of the Monkey. The next time you're asked to come up with a research project, you'll be prepared knowing there's at least one nifty, free resource you can rely on. This is a great tool for any student!