Say you are planning to conduct a survey study but you cannot find the right instrument to use. What should you do?
Ideally, you should be thinking about potential instruments to use as early as possible. By the time you have decided on a topic and start to pick apart where the gap in literature might be, you should also be looking into what variables can be measured with existing survey instruments. The www.midss.org website is a fantastic resource, and we also have a good selection in our database in the Statistics Solutions toolbox. Here, however, we will talk about what to do when resources like this fail you.
First, do not panic. Surveys can sense fear and will be much easier to find with a clear head. Assuming you have already tried both options mentioned above, you can first look into some of the papers you are using in your literature review. Quantitative papers on your topic should have some kind of instrument, and if not, you can always look through their reference lists for other papers that might feature an instrument that will suit your needs.
If none of these options work, you can consider looking into archival data. This form of data is useful for a few reasons, the most important being that it completely removes you from the data collection. This not only makes IRB approval a breeze, but also makes data collection instantaneous, which can sometimes save you months. The most popular forms of archival data are things like the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), or Census data, which can cover a lot of different topics. Googling national survey or archival data with a key term or two from your topic is often all it takes. You can check out our previous blog on archival data for some information on things to look out for.
Your final option is to create your own survey. This can be a long, painstaking, and tedious process, and it is deserving of its own entry beyond this page. So keep an eye out for more information on some of the labors associated with survey creation in the near future!
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