Online surveys have gained popularity over the past couple of years, and it is now possible for anyone to create an online survey within minutes. While it sounds simple enough to create a few questions and responses, generating a successful online survey is more difficult than most people realize. The creation and deployment process is critical in obtaining accurate survey results, and we have compiled the following list of best practices to assist you in getting the most out of your online survey projects.

  • Keep it simple. When creating your survey, avoid wordy or confusing questions. Construct your questions in a manner which is easy to understand and will assist you in obtaining precise responses from the respondents.  Qualtrics Support website includes tips, guides, tutorials, and answers to survey design, including survey questionnaire structure and increasing response rates.  We also encourage you to review the Introduction to Survey Research, 10 Tips for Building Effective Surveys, and many of the topics found under the Survey Tips topics on the Qualtrics Blog.
  • Be resourceful. We strongly encourage you to do your research and find out what survey development training resources are available to you. Qualtrics Support provides an abundance of basic and advanced online training, available in various formats. This can be accessed by clicking the "Help" link on any Qualtrics screen (or by clicking the Qualtrics Support link above). Additionally, LinkedIn Learning provides a variety of survey-related resources. These resources are available at no charge to university faculty, staff, and students.
  • Be aware of your environment. In order to avoid "over-surveying" respondents, be aware of other surveys which might target your audience. Additionally, it is generally a good idea to avoid sending surveys out immediately before holidays and school breaks. Other times you may wish to avoid being around weekends in general - Friday afternoon survey will likely be received on Friday, tucked away and forgotten about by Monday.  Mondays can also be a bad time as people are generally overwhelmed with messages received over the weekend.
  • Keep it short. In general, people do not usually participate in surveys which take longer than 5-10 minutes to complete.  Keep your survey short to avoid high abandonment rates. If this is not possible, consider inserting page breaks (which will allow respondents to come back to finish the survey at a later date) or breaking the survey up into two separate surveys.
  • Consider using the Survey Library and Question Library. Qualtrics' "Survey Library" and "Question Library" allows you to be much more efficient and faster when creating your surveys.  You have the ability to access your own surveys, questions, and responses from your personal library for use in any survey that you create.
  • Pretest your survey. After you have created and published your survey, it is important for you to test the survey's functionality to ensure you are receiving the results you wish to achieve. Not only should you test the survey's performance on various operating systems and browsers, but you should generate multiple responses to ensure you are able to generate the analyzing and reporting features you wish to obtain. If you are utilizing the Survey Mailer to distribute your survey, make sure you test these features as well.  Although you can generate test responses within Qualtrics, you are strongly encouraged to ask multiple colleagues and/or friends to take your survey to determine if there are any confusing or unclear questions. Once you have finished testing the survey, you can delete your responses before making the survey public and/or distributing the survey to respondents.
  • Backup your survey and survey data.   The ITS policy for survey restoration is for disaster recovery only. For this reason, it is very important for you to make a backup copy of your surveys and survey responses regularly.
  • Make your survey accessible. Make sure everyone will be able to read your surveys. Assistive technologies are being used more frequently and are supported at the University of Iowa. The Education Technology Center offers training and resources for students, staff, and faculty interested in assistive technology and accessibility. The Qualtrics software can also assist you with creating accessible surveys by clicking
    Tools --> Review --> Check Survey Accessibility.
  • Clean up old surveys. Keep in mind that Qualtrics is not meant to be used as a survey repository or for survey/data storage – it is only intended to serve as an online data collection service for surveys actively collecting data. All surveys which are no longer receiving responses should be exported as backup copies and deleted from user accounts in a timely fashion.
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Last updated: 
November 16, 2021