Most surveys have a field at the end for comments where surveyors can record anything important about the survey not addressed elsewhere. My survey did—and I found that most of the time, surveyors record nothing important in the comments field. Typical entries include:
1. The obvious:
“The survey was completed successfully”
2. The nice but not particularly important:
“Respondent was very friendly”
3. Somewhat useful information about attitudes toward your survey:
“The respondent complained it was too long”
“The respondent hated the food security section”
4. The confusing:
5. The amusingly mis-written:
“Good Intercourse” (An actual comment from one of my friend Linda’s surveys)
Occasionally, a surveyor will use the comments section to record very important information about seemingly contradictory information in the survey. For example, if no household head is recorded, the surveyor might note that the household head is working in another region and thus didn’t meet the residence requirement to be recorded as part of the household, even though that person has decision-making power for the household. Another example: if a respondent opts out of a question or section, this can be recorded so that the information is not thought missing.
This is how the comments section should be used. Reducing comments to only include important information has the benefit of reducing time-consuming string field data entry, and reducing the number of comments that must be sorted through during analysis.
How do you improve use of the comments section? Next time I do a training, I will include a section on using the comments field—giving examples of useful comments and unnecessary comments, and emphasizing that it’s okay to leave the section blank if there is no important information to record.
This is also an area where electronic surveying has an advantage. Many electronic survey platforms allow surveyors to add comments on each question. This focuses the surveyor on recording information that is relevant to understanding survey responses. It also allows the surveyor to address an inconsistency as soon as it comes up, rather than waiting till the end of the survey, when the surveyor may have forgotten about the issue.
I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.