About This Series
Publication Date: January 2010
Step 3: Collect New Data
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Step 3: Collect New Data


A survey is a research tool used to collect information using structured questions that are primarily closed-ended (e.g., yes/no questions, rating questions). You may also decide to include a few open-ended questions that ask respondents to explain their answers so you can obtain more information about an issue. Surveys can be administered by mail, in person, or over the telephone.

Exhibit 1 illustrates examples of questions you might ask as well as the format for different answer choices.

Exhibit 1
Sample Survey Questions and Answer Choices
Question Formats for Answer Choice
Are you familiar with the Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004? Circle one:

No     Somewhat     Very
  1      2      3      4       5

What outreach efforts have you used to educate the community about the Crime Victims’ Rights Act? Check all that apply:

check boxMedia campaigns
check boxSeminars and workshops
check boxNewspaper articles and newsletters
check boxOther:                                   

Does your state or local community have legislation on victims’ rights? Check one:

check boxYes
check boxNo

Please describe the difficulty you have experienced trying to enforce victims’ rights in your area. Describe:                                                                      

Using a combination of open- and closed-ended questions will help keep the respondent engaged and help you obtain the data you need to answer your assessment questions. Furthermore, pilot testing your survey instrument will help you ensure that the questions are asked in a way that will yield meaningful answers.

Exhibit 2 presents the pros and cons of each data collection method presented in this guide.

Exhibit 2
Collecting New Data
Method Advantages Potential Challenges Time Required To Conduct Time Required To Anlalyze Resource Intensity
In-Person Interviews You can obtain more detailed information about complex issues, ask followup questions immediately, and observe nonverbal communication that can help shape the direction of the interview. It can be more costly to conduct site visits, and you may have to limit the number of people that you interview. High High Medium
to High
Telephone Interviews You can obtain detailed information from respondents who are geographically dispersed, and you may save costs compared with in-person interviews. It may be difficult to get someone to talk to you for an extended period. Scheduling the interview may be difficult. Medium to High Medium Medium
Focus Groups You are able to convene a group of experts on your topic, and the discussion can yield insightful information generated by the discussion. Some participants may not feel comfortable sharing their true feelings or knowledge in a group setting. Medium High Medium
to High
Surveys You can solicit specific information from a larger number of people. If you mail surveys, you allow people to complete them at a time most convenient for them. You also can administer them online to increase the response rate. If administered over the telephone, it may be difficult to schedule a time to talk or to get people to talk for an extended period. If administered via mail, it may be difficult to motivate people to complete and mail in the survey, which may result in a lower response rate. Low to Medium Low Medium

Using a combination of the methods described in this section may work best for you. For example, you may decide to conduct a telephone survey and then, based on the preliminary findings, conduct a focus group to further explore what was learned from the survey. When selecting a data collection approach, remember that the ultimate goal is to collect the best information you can to help you learn about the service needs and resources available in your area.