Surveys – the good, the bad and the ugly

Surveys are the bed rock of any consultation activity. They’re a cost-effective way to get information that can be easily analysed providing valuable data to decision makers.

The good

High representation

Surveys can gather a lot of feedback from a lot of people.  And the larger the survey sample size the better understanding you will have of your targeted population.

Objective information

They’re objective – with surveys – everyone answers the same questions in the same way thereby reducing the risk of biased analysis.


They’re dependable – with surveys you will always get results and if your survey guarantees anonymity, you are going to get more honest and candid responses.

The bad

Respondent fatigue

We’ve all experienced those surveys that keep going on and on and on. Most people are time poor and get tired of answering questions that they don’t feel will benefit them. This can lead to lazy answers or even worse survey drop-out.

You get what you give

The information you’ll get from a survey is only as good as the questions you ask. If your questions are not supported by other research, then you will only get what you want to hear.

The ugly

Data analysis

There is no point in collecting data if you aren’t going to invest in analysing it thoroughly. The more data you collect, the more time and more resources you need to analyse that data. This is especially so of qualitative data. Too much data also increases combinations, and combinations of things that need to be analysed and it can be difficult to differentiate what is important from what’s interesting.

There are lies, damn lies and statistics

Important information can get buried in large complex survey reports. This is a real issue if you need that data to respond nimbly to emerging issues. More data can create noise rather than clarity.

Having designed many successful surveys and after crunching the data for Australia’s largest ever engagement project, Articulous empowers organisations to better understand their communities and stakeholders and make well informed strategic decisions backed up by rich data through the use of effective survey techniques.

Written by Bernard Houston
A facilitator, communicator, creator and composer, Bernard has led award-winning engagement and behaviour change programs across Queensland for both the public and private sector.