Survey pitfalls and info lit

Sample survey question
By Trendocean (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I have been auditing a research methods class.  Overall the course has been a good refresher on how to evaluate research.  Since they are plentiful, especially during an election year, I’ll focus on polls and surveys.

The class covered the major pitfalls common to survey research.   For instance non-random samples can mean unequal representation.  Does a poll truly reflect voters’ opinions, if certain districts or groups are underrepresented?

We participants also discussed poor response rates.  Oxford (2016) describes the situation from the survey-taker’s view: “You get an email on a listserv, a request to fill out a ‘ten-minute survey’ that you will breeze through in five” (p. 249).  We don’t want to use surveys simply because they’re there.  Doing so contributes to survey fatigue, which in turn leads to poor responses and poor response rates.  As convenient as a survey is, is it the right methodology for the question at hand?

Not every reader will conduct a survey himself or herself.  All the same knowing how such research is done makes one a more engaged reader (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2015, Scholarship as Conversation section).


Association of College & Research Libraries. (2015).  Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved from ACRL website :

Oxford, E. (2016, May). Survey data: When what you see is not what you wanted to get. College & Research Libraries News, 77(5), 249-250.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *