Analyzing Survey Data
The information you obtain from your survey can be entered into a computer software program to allow you to manage, review and analyze your data. The software you choose will depend on what you are familiar with and what is available, the nature of the data, and the types of analyses that are planned. Common choices for data analysis software are:
- spreadsheets (e.g. MS Excel)
- databases (e.g. MS Access )
- statistical computing software (SPSS, R, SAS, etc)
If you don’t have experience with any of these, there is a good chance that someone in your organization can provide some support to get you started.
A major advantage of many online survey applications (e.g. SurveyMonkey) is that they offer a menu of standard options for analysis and summary. This may also allow you to download your survey data directly into one of the software programs listed above and that will save significant time and resources by eliminating the need to enter data. Some universities offer Qualtrics or other software that is more powerful than survey monkey for conducting surveys and analysis.
Frequencies and Means
Many surveys include questions that ask respondents to select one answer from a list that is provided (e.g. What pest did you identify most frequently while scouting during last year?). For this type of question, a Frequency Analysis is simply the proportion of individuals who selected each answer.
For questions that ask respondents to select from a list “all that apply,” a frequency analysis is conducted for each item on the list resulting in a proportion of how respondents selected each item.
Another common question type is a scale item (e.g. Select a number from 1 to 5 to indicate how important scouting for pests is within your overall pest management strategy, 1 = not at all important; 5 = extremely important). Calculating a mean for scale items is often an initial step that can provide useful information. To calculate the mean for all respondents for a scale item, simply add all the numerical responses and divide the total by the number of respondents.
More Complex Analyses
Frequencies and means provide basic information but individuals may be interested in conducting more complex analyses. Some examples include:
- Comparing the means on scale items for subgroups in the survey (e.g. organic versus conventional farmers, or facility owners verses employees).
- Comparing if answers to different items on the survey are related to each other (e.g. is the use of certain scouting practices related to the type of crops an individual is growing, or to the number of years farming? or facility practices to source of facility maintenance funding?)
A recent example from the domain of school IPM with fairly comprehensive reporting of basic analyses can be read by 2010 IPM Survey Of California Schools.
For analyses that move beyond calculating the basic frequencies and means, it is advisable to seek out the help of an individual with experience or training in evaluation or social science research. This person also can help you with setting up a coding system to effectively conduct these advance analyses most efficiently.