Using Surveys for Data Collection in Continuous Improvement

In continuous quality improvement, surveys help to identify customer expectations, measure satisfaction levels, and determine specific areas for improvement.

This article provided by: Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment at Penn State University.

Is a Survey Necessary?

Surveys that provide valid, usable results require thought, planning, logistical support, time and possibly, money. Richard Light, a nationally recognized proponent of conducting and using research, especially in the area of student assessment, believes that good research is one of the most important bases for sound decision making. Light and colleagues (1990) have argued that, “If used wisely, it [survey research] can lead to improvements throughout the entire fabric of an institution” (p. 234).

At the same time, they caution would-be data gatherers to think carefully before adding to the mountain of unused and often unusable survey data. Serious, targeted, and well directed surveys that are sensibly integrated into an overall assessment and improvement approach can be a valuable tool, but individuals who are planning a survey should “weigh the costs against the benefits” (p. 10). Teams should not embark on a survey simply because it seems like the thing to do. A useful question to keep in mind is, “What do you want to come out of this?” (p. 232). If no other data source is available, then a survey may be necessary.