As a follow up to my previous post pertaining to things I love about my job, among my favorite work tasks is writing a survey. (Another of my favorite tasks is analyzing survey results, but I have written about that in a prior post.) Not only is writing a survey intellectually stimulating, the mere fact I have a survey to write means we have important work to do for a client. Hooray for client work! The activities involved in my survey preparation are: (1) read copious amounts of legal documents, provided by the client, about the case on which we have been retained; (2) outline the key issues in the case that require assessment on a survey; (3) prepare the draft of the survey that includes writing custom, case specific questions in addition to the standard demographic and other questions that form the basis for all of Magnus’ surveys; (4) send the survey to Magnus’ Project Manager for formatting into an instrument that our research participants will complete; and (5) editing the survey until it is in final, error free, format. All of Magnus’ consulting services involve surveys. If we are conducting a small scale focus group, there is an abbreviated survey for the respondents to complete as a part of their participation. If we are conducting a more involved mock trial, I write a multi part survey with repeated measures so that I can assess the mock jurors’ attitude change over time, as they receive new information about the case. Finally, if we are working on a high stakes case and/or a case that involves high publicity, we conduct a community attitude survey that obtains responses from hundreds of people and which, when all of the data are collected, will lead to my hugely fun task of performing complex statistical analyses. (It just doesn’t get any better than this, at least for me!) In a perfect world, I would enjoy writing 1 survey per week because that would mean Magnus is extremely busy with client work. Writing surveys is an indication of great things to come!
I recently posted about finding “the” answer. Surveys are one of the primary ways we do that. Surveys, in our world, take on different forms depending on the research methodology. The number of sections, the number of questions, and the types of questions vary. Most of our surveys involve paper and pen responses on “bubble forms” just like in school, which are later scanned and analyzed. (For a number of reasons, paper and pen still work better for us than other, higher tech options.) Some surveys require the use of laptops to enable the participants to answer open ended questions. Thus, Melissa has to first decide what form a specific survey will take for each case or each phase of research involved in a case. On the latter, that is, multi-phase projects, planning each survey so that it will mesh with the survey on other phases is also an important part of this process. Ensuring that the surveys cover all relevant case issues and are easily comprehended by participants (mock jurors, usually) are critical steps. Further, ensuring that no bias is introduced into the research process is extremely important. It is not enough to make a list of questions. A research expert, like Melissa, makes sure the surveys get the answers being sought! And, she has fun while doing just that.