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How to Write a Survey Report

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Survey reports make recommendations based on a careful analysis of data tallied and organized from survey findings. A good survey report requires you to systematically move from a big-picture summary down to your specific recommendations. How you write it determines whether you convince others to follow your advice or you are ignored.

Summarizing Your Findings

Your survey report’s summary section provides a broad overview of the entire report. It includes the date the surveys were distributed, the methods used for calculating and tabulating responses and a list of some key findings. Think of the summary as the entire survey report in miniature; this section should be about two pages long, and it should be written for someone who might have an interest in your report but might not have time to read every line.

An executive summary is necessary if you're looking for funding for a project based on the survey results. It differs from a standard summary in that it includes a brief business plan and outlines the opportunity that exists for potential investors. It's important to make sure the executive summary does not read like a sales pitch, however. It's not meant to be advertising, but instead an accurate reporting of information and conservative estimates of what the figures mean. Anyone with money to invest is smart enough to recognize overly-optimistic projections.

Providing Background Information

Introduction, background and objectives sections provide information about why you conducted the survey and composed the report and what you hoped to gain from your research. A half-page introduction should detail the problem or question you sought to address with your survey and subsequent report. The one- to two-page background section elaborates on this problem with additional context, such as what population was surveyed and what types of questions were asked. The half-page objectives section should highlight your specific goals in administering the survey and composing the report.

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Detailing the Methods and Results

Describe your survey administration and tabulation methods in a three- to five-page methods section and your results in a five- to 15-page results section. In your method section, include the survey you administered, as well as an explanation or analysis of why you asked the types of questions you did. Describe what you did with the information generated by the surveys, and explain how you tallied and grouped the responses. In your results section, show these tallies and groupings, either as spreadsheet-styled columns or pictorially as charts and graphs. Provide additional explanations of what the different tallies and groupings of responses indicate and why they are tallied and grouped the way they are.

A survey results template has about as many variations as surveys themselves. How you present your data depends on the amount and content of that data, and the results you're trying to show. Microsoft Word and Excel have a number of built-in templates you can use so you don't have to format your survey results from scratch. There are also many examples online.

Analyzing Results and Recommending Solutions

Conclude your report with a brief two- to three-page discussion section and a brief half-page to one-page recommendation section. In your discussion section, analyze the implications of your results section, specifically examples of tallies or groups that seem out of the ordinary, such as a disproportionate number of respondents answering “yes” to a survey question you thought would get more "no" answers. Following your discussion, offer five to 10 specific, actionable recommendations based on your results. These recommendations should be clear and brief.

About the Author

Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.

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