Since theses are usually built on original research conducted by the PhD candidate, many researchers need to collect a large amount of data—both qualitative and quantitative—to meet the requirements of their doctoral studies. With the ability to connect to thousands—even, potentially, millions—of people via the Internet, in some ways there has never been a better time to be collecting statistics. However, reaching those people and persuading them to fill out your survey or be your interview subject can be difficult. Here are some tips and tools for collecting the research you need for your thesis.
Creating a survey
There are many different survey generators online. Many of them are very basic-looking but get the job done (SurveyMonkey and Google Forms, for instance). However, if you want to present a professional-looking survey, Typeform is a stylish survey-maker that has a very simple, modern user interface and customisable colour palette. It also translates very well to mobile screens, so if you’re expecting your respondents to be accessing your survey via a smartphone, Typeform is the way to go.
If you’re looking to contact people as interview subjects, you may want to put up a web sign-up form and collect peoples’ contact details on a social media profile or blog. MailChimp is a very popular email tool that allows you to collect email addresses and send out professional-looking emails. It also has very useful contact management systems—meaning you can separate contacts into specific groups if necessary.
Organising a focus group
If you’re searching for a more qualitative set of data, a focus group can be very useful. However, it can be hard to get a group of people together at the same time. Cut out the endless stream of emails and use Doodle—a simple program that takes everyone’s availability and lets you know when the best time is to meet.
Offering an incentive
If you can, giving an incentive will ensure you get high-quality responses. This might be something as simple as a discount code for a restaurant chain or retailer. You may wish to compensate people who give you a lot of time with a gift like a free iTunes download or an Amazon gift voucher.
Reaching your audience
Getting your survey in front of your audience can be a challenge; however, reaching the right people just takes a little perseverance and ingenuity. If your demographic isn’t too specific—for instance, if you’re looking for parents of young children aged 18–30 living in Australia, putting your survey on Facebook and asking your friends to share it around will be your first step. Emailing it around and asking colleagues and family to share is also quite simple. If you’re looking for survey respondents who are in a more specialised demographic—say you’re searching for stay-at-home dads aged 18–30 in the Sydney region—Facebook can also come in handy, since there are many groups and community pages. Similarly, social forum Reddit has many very specific niche subreddits.
Help from influencers
To reach a large number of people, find an ‘influencer’ in your area. Once you’ve found a blogger or Twitter user who reaches a large audience in your area of research, send them a nice email to ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing your survey on their blog. To discover who the influencers are, a social aggregator site like Klout can give you some tips. Similarly, searching key phrases on Twitter will turn up a list of relevant profiles.
Image attribution: Viktor Hanacek