Powerful Partner Questions
Survey Design Strategies from the Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey
When responding to a survey, do you ever have a sense of déjà vu, as though you already answered a very similar question a minute before?
There might be a very good reason for the repetition. Across seven cycles of the US Faculty Survey and in our implementation of this instrument with more than 100 institutions across the globe, we have often found great value in approaching the same topic in multiple ways with slightly different lenses to provide actionable intelligence on the supports faculty need for their teaching, research, and scholarly communications. In many cases, asking one question provides some useful data for planning, but the combination of two or more “partner questions” can begin to tell a much clearer story about user needs and motivations. Below, I highlight some of the partner questions we have used.
Service + Provider
“Does your college or university library, scholarly society, university press, or another service provider assist you with any of the following aspects of the publication process?”
“How valuable do you find support from your college or university library for each of the following aspects of the publication process, or how valuable would you find it if this support was offered to you?”
Illuminates current supply of a service and demand from a specific provider
Signals areas where a potential provider may need to invest additional marketing efforts
Attitude + Behavior
“Please indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with the following statement: I would be happy to see the traditional subscription-based publication model replaced entirely by an open access publication system in which all scholarly research outputs would be freely available to the public.”
“When it comes to influencing your decisions about journals in which to publish an article of yours, how important to you is it that the journal makes its articles freely available on the internet, so there is no cost to purchase or read?”
Highlights alignment or lack thereof between current state and desired state
Permits deeper understanding of motivating factors driving current behavior
Local + Global
“Please indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with the following statement: Regardless of how reliable and safe electronic collections of journals may be, it will always be crucial for my college or university library to maintain hard-copy collections of journals.”
“Please indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with the following statement: Regardless of how reliable and safe electronic collections of journals may be, it will always be crucial for some libraries to maintain hard-copy collections of journals.”
Provides insight on the importance of local versus collective service provision
May indicate feelings of trust for or need for immediacy of service provision from local or collective action
Personal + Collective
“Please indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with the following statement: The time that it does or would take me to organize and develop documentation to make a dataset available for reuse by others is not worth it.”
“Please indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with the following statement: It is important for researchers to organize and deposit their datasets so others can attempt to reproduce their findings.”
Identifies gap between an ideal state of behavior for others and self-reported behavior on an individual level
I thank Isaiah Krugman, a rising senior at Williams College and intern with the Ithaka S+R surveys team over the past few months, for his contributions in developing this typology.