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I am trying to create a website where an end user will fill out a survey and a PDF will be automatically created depending on their answers. Does anyone have any advice on the best way to set this up?
Have you ever taken a statistics class? You might want to look into it, especially if you want your surveys to be professional, accurate, or you find yourself creating them on a regular basis. In any writing or speaking you have to know your audience and speak to that audience. Survey situations are no different. What is the reason for your survey? Are you looking for support for the focus of your survey? Or perhaps you are looking for numbers to support the latest trends in sales, whatever the reason use the five journalisticl W's to start your process in creation of your survey. Who What When Where Why Also include How. Ask yourself these questions about your survey first to put some structure to your questions. WHO do you want information from? The clearer the specifications the easier it will be to write to that group. Examples, “Everyone age 12 to 72,” or Single Hispanic Mother's ages 17 to 50 making one hundred thousand a year, or Seven Caucasian gay, soda drinking men, that are age 27, and living in Eatonville, Washington. What are you trying to find out? What is the reason for your survey? Is it to support something? or is it to find out weaknesses or non support of an idea product or person. Each group is different, and would answer the same question differently. WHAT is your purpose for the survey? Is it purely informational or to support, or argue, a point? WHEN is the time that you are studying? Is it all day? Weekend? Or on Mondays after work? Time is an important consideration. Also when you conduct the survey is important, lunch hour might give rushed results, and before school may be difficult to distribute. WHERE your survey is given is also a point to consider. Area you interested in finding out about the needs of a specific community, or geographic area? A shopping mall might give you a wide variety of people, ethnicities, ages, sexes and incomes, but your target group may not be represented. Going door to door might not be safe, mail and will limit returned surveys. Before or after a meeting, concert or other group activity might work best. Regional, state, city, county, and rural participants will all have different opinions too, based solely on their connection to their area. People from the Deep South, New York, Compton, and Martha's Vineyard (among others,) will all have personal biases based on connections to these locations. You wouldn't ask a small town person a big city question, or vice versa, there would be no relevance. WHY are you creating the survey? For a writing class? For fun? Is it for your job? Will the results change something, or define a problem enough to create action? Is the survey purely informational, or is this for a scientific study that might be published in a peer review publication? These considerations are important to address before you begin writing questions. A scientific survey will have guidelines and procedures that must be met throughout the entire survey process. While a survey on how to improve customer satisfaction at a putt putt golf course will be very relaxed and precision won't be a factor. Finally how you give your survey will be important too. Will it be a short series of questions face to face, a two page handout after a presentation, or an hour long interview similar to a census survey? Who will be giving the survey? Will it be an email with links to an extended set of questions? Finally who will be compiling the data? Is it a private company? Friend from daycare, a well known author? You have to create questions that make sense to them as well. The better you organize your questions the better it is for the person doing the data to compile. The amount of surveys returned complete is always important. Finally you should take a statistics class or hobnob with someone in the field to get clear thoughts on surveys. I am a great writer with lots of experience, and plenty of readers, but the main points of consideration to any survey should come from a statistical professional, who could help you define your perimeters. Writing the questions would then fall into place for you, I believe.
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That is my two cents, but before you make your survey take a moment to review the five W's, read this, read that, go to your local statistics class, or hobnob with some statistical professionals on the side. This is what you need to get started writing your survey questions, before you get too stuck.