How and where to include your survey’s methodology

Recently, I was asked, “What is the best way to communicate your methodology without overwhelming readers with a lot of details?”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with a methodology, it describes how the data was collected and who participated in the survey.

While you would think (hope!) that a methodology would be standard in all research, our State of Original Research for Marketing found that 1 in 3 marketers don’t (or don’t know if) they publish their methodology.

At a minimum, your methodology should include:

  • Sample size (i.e. the number of people who completed the survey)
  • Demographic details
  • Dates of survey collection
  • How you collected responses

Here’s a simple template you can use for your next research project:

[Your company] surveyed [number and demographic description of respondents] to understand [short description of topic]. The results in this report are from an online survey fielded via [method of survey collection] from [collection dates].

Your methodology can either go at the beginning or the end of your findings. I often make mention of the sample size and basic demographics at the beginning of the survey and then include a detailed methodology at the end with charts detailing the primary demographics.

Bonus tip

You may be tempted to not include the methodology if you don’t have a perfect sample. For instance, maybe you have fewer respondents than you want or your demographics skew small business when you want larger enterprises. However, it’s important to always be transparent and include the details. I guarantee you that lack of details will make your research appear uncredible.

A version of this story appeared in Data Chronicles, my monthly newsletter that helps you conduct and publish better survey-based research. Sign up to get the newest tips, examples and updates.