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Surveys at Swarthmore

A survey can be a powerful tool for information gathering, but it also has great potential for misuse, including one of the worst offenses — squandering the time and good will of members of the community with surveys that are poorly designed, redundant, or of limited value.

It is important to balance the benefit of having the answers you seek against the imposition on our community. This imposition can be reduced through the careful timing and coordination of surveys, sampling techniques, and effective survey design.

The Office of Institutional Research (IR) helps to coordinate College-wide surveys, acting as an intermediary between researchers and President's Staff, who approves them.  IR can also provide some support for campus members interested in conducting a survey, particularly if the work supports College activities. Whether you work directly with Institutional Research or not, the resources available on these pages are meant to help us all to do a better job in our survey work. 

If you're thinking of conducting a survey, please review these pages carefully. Before beginning a survey project check in with the Institutional Research office. Data may already exist to address the questions that you have, or there may be opportunities to consolidate your questions with other ongoing work. The College's practice for survey approval and registering a survey to appear on our survey pages can be found on the Approval for Surveys link.

Also, please take a look at these handy "Survey Guidelines [pdf]," endorsed by the College Assessment Committee, which is designed to help members of the community think through the steps involved in deciding to do a survey.