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#188: The Role of Ethics in Surveys

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Consultant surveys are occasionally attached for lack of objectivity. Is this a design issue or something more?

Survey research is a skill that requires some experience to design, administer and interpret. It is easy to think you are creating a great survey if you don't know where you may be missing something. For example, there are ethical considerations in survey design. What questions are you not asking? Have you considered the role values play in a respondent's answer? Are the questions asked in a way that might inhibit a respondent from answering truthfully (even though the survey is anonymous)?

Surveys are only as useful as the context in which they are taken, and this means they are as much about values as they are about data. The questions you are using a survey to learn about have values embedded in them. You bring your own values with you, recognized or not, when you interpret or report results.

Tip: Surveys should be designed and interpreted by several people. The purpose of this diversity is to recognize value conflicts due to age, ethnicity, gender, geography, life stage, experience, etc. that may affect how the questions are interpreted. Even the best survey researcher benefits from a second, even third, pair of eyes.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  ethics  market research 

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