We often conduct surveys as part of our projects, and it is made easier by a few effective tools. They can help you too, particularly if you have not done much surveying before. Here they are:

1. Fluidsurveys.com (http://fluidsurveys NULL.com) is a Canadian-owned company that provides essentially the same service as Survey Monkey. Its servers are in Canada, which can be important to some of our clients who have rules against any data being stored outside of our country. It also allows for offline surveying on electronic tablets and smartphones, where other services require an active internet connection.

Keep in mind that online surveys are useful for data entry of telephone and door-step surveys too, not just online surveys.

2. The Sample Size Calculator (http://www NULL.surveysystem NULL.com/sscalc NULL.htm) is an online resource that allows you to figure out how many surveys you need to conduct to have a certain confidence level and confidence interval. Don’t recognize that jargon? The website even does a great job of explaining those terms for you.

3. Census profiles at Statistics Canada (http://www12 NULL.statcan NULL.gc NULL.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/index NULL.cfm?Lang=E) can be very useful when conducting research. First, it has a lot of data that may help with your project. But it is also useful for checking to see how representative of a population that your sample is. You can even use the data to weight your results to make it more representative.

4. Howto.gov (part of USA.gov) provides some guidance (http://www NULL.howto NULL.gov/customer-experience/collecting-feedback/basics-of-survey-and-question-design) for people who are new to surveying. It is pretty basic, but it is also straightforward and easy-to-understand. If you are tasked with developing a survey and you haven’t created one before, this is a good place to start.

5. Advice. If your budget will allow it, hire a professional. But if it won’t, start with these tools and then have someone experienced review your survey with you. That will cost much less, and will ensure quality. The question design is very important, and it is always a good idea to have someone check them over for you. Also, always test your survey with a few people before actually starting. You might uncover some problems that can be fixed before they create a problem.