substitute, sample, stagger, share

Establish Research Questions

  • Research questions guide and center your research.
  • Are you assessing an intervention, gauging interest in a program?
  • Does each question in your survey serve a purpose for your research?
  • What broader campus goals or initiative does this research support?
  • Keep in mind your analysis plan when designing research project and project scope.

Choose the right methodology

  • Do the people you plan to survey have the information needed/is their opinion informed?
  • Are there other data sources that could be used (analysis of existing data, literature reviews, analysis of administrative data, Cal Answers)
  • Will you need to disaggregate data for small sub-populations?
  • Are other methodologies better suited for your research questions such as focus groups or interviews?
  • Consider using a sample rather than the population.
  • Surveys with an expected response rate below 15% are typically not encouraged.
  • Consider requesting adding questions to UCUES, SONS, or other Tier 1 surveys in lieu of  conducting a one-off survey.


  • OPA will work with you to provide a non-overlapping sample, when possible.
  • Tier 2 and 3 surveys may have samples that overlap with Tier 1 surveys.


  • Check the Tier 1 survey schedule to ensure that your survey is not in conflict with other key campus surveys.
  • If a Tier 2 or 3 survey conflicts with a Tier 1 survey we can work with you on scheduling around planned survey collection dates to minimize overlap.
  • Tier 1 Surveys will receive highest scheduling priority.
  • Check with OPA for other survey activities that might conflict with your planned survey.


Marketing Strategy

  • Use multiple e-mail reminders with varied signatories and content.
  • Send e-mail reminders only to non-responders.
  • Consider use of social media (e.g., departmental Facebook pages)
  • Use incentives, if possible (especially with student populations!); for example, Amazon gift cards, Cal1 Card credit.

Data Security

  • When possible, use campus-approved survey software for data collection (e.g. CASES, Qualtrics, Google Forms).
  • If possible, use CalNet authentication for survey access. Be sure to provide a means to logout of CalNet.
  • Lock access to completed surveys to prevent unauthorized re-entry.
  • Store data securely.

During Production

  • Implement a strategic email reminder plan
  • Monitor response rate (possibly send targeted emails to group(s) with lower response rates, provide additional incentives, leave survey open for longer or consider increasing sample size)


  • Clean data (e.g., handle missing data, straight-lining, partial completions).
  • Prepare a codebook.
  • If appropriate, share aggregated results.
  • Suppress small cell sizes in any public report.