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Licensed To Drive. Surveys.


By Kathryn Korostoff

Our 16 year old has a learner’s permit. Next year, he’ll be driving.  A little scary, but he will be prepared. He studied a manual, took a written test, and will take driving lessons before he hits the road.

If only we had the same system for surveys. If people were required to be licensed to launch a survey, it sure would prevent nasty “accidents” and lots of near misses.

If you have colleagues who are taking advantage of the many free or low-cost tools to release their own online surveys, consider instituting your own licensing process or “survey” driving school. Here are a few recommended steps:

1. Give them a manual. In this case, it would be some policies. Documentation of common sense policies will save everyone a lot of aggravation. This could cover rules about items such as:

  • Incentives
  • Survey length
  • Use of specific scales
  • Protection of company confidential information
  • Proper use of open ends
2. Let them get some road practice. Before they design a survey that will be seen by clients, let them practice. Consider having them do a small survey within their functional area or department as a way to experience the entire process. This will sensitize them to survey design issues since their colleagues are less likely to be shy about telling them that questions were worded vaguely or that instructions were confusing.


3. Require “licensing.” Consider a policy that requires anyone creating surveys to be approved by the market research department. The approval process may involve taking a formal class, working with a coach for their first few projects or even taking a test. Any option will work along as it is an objective way to make sure volunteer researchers are safe before they hit the road.


4. Install some traffic signals. Well, we aren’t going to let these drivers just barrel down the road without any controls, are we? Of course not. Let them know that sometimes they will have to slow down and put on the breaks. Make sure they have easy access to appointed people who can review survey drafts and provide feedback before giving them the green light. The goal is not to make the process onerous (which would only result in them running the light anyway), but to make it helpful.


These days, market research has become so important and accessible that many non-researchers are embracing it. It’s up to us research professionals to make sure our new drivers are safe.  And remember, it’s not all bad news: I know I am looking forward to having my kids pick up the dry cleaning!


Research Rockstar offers an online questionnaire design class and is also hosting an in-person survey design class on June 9th in Waltham Massachusetts.

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One response to “Licensed To Drive. Surveys.

  1. A great analogy and some really practical ideas to protect the non-MR surveyor from themselves.

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