To develop a high-quality survey that is tailored to the country, follow these four steps:

  • Step #1: Develop an offline Core Questionnaire in the survey’s primary language.
  • Step #2: Translate the Core Questionnaire into other languages.
  • Step #3: For voice surveys, create audio recordings in all languages.
  • Step #4: Load the content (SMS text, Voice audio files) in the online tool.

This guideline provides some tips for Step #1: The Core Questionnaire.

Do use a standardized template for the core questionnaire.

This spreadsheet is a compilation of the text that will be used in the survey – i.e., IVR, SMS, Web. Content for each language should be on a separate tab. On each tab, include the primary language text so you can compare languages. Also include columns for the serial number (SN), module, variable name, and version number. You can include a column for a unique ID as well.

Do use standardized conventions.

Do italicize preamble text (e.g., (The next question is about …”). Also, write skip logic and other programming notes in upper-case letters, e.g., “IF 3, END SURVEY”.

Do provide clear, concise instructions for entering answers.

For example:

  • IVR: “For Male, press 1. For Female, press 2.”
  • SMS: “Text 1-Male, 3-Female” or “Text 1)Male 3)Female”

Do use as few SMS as possible.

Surveda allows you to split long questions into multiple SMS. However, it’s a good idea to use this option sparingly. Sometimes respondents may not receive the multiple messages in the same order (or at the same time.) Further, respondents without smartphones may have difficulty scrolling through long messages. We recommend condensing text as much as possible while conveying the meaning of the question.

Do write multiple SMS questions carefully.

If you must use multiple SMS for a question, split at intuitive places – e.g., the end of a sentence or question. Remember to indicate the number of the message at the beginning of the question – as follows:

Do use a convention to designate where you mix languages in a single cell.

This guideline is for the Language Selector only. This text should be multilingual and should have programming text to identify this, e.g. “IN LANGUAGE STATED BELOW.” An alternate convention for differentiating the multilingual text is to make each sentence a different color. The initial introduction and the primary language should be the first items in the survey and should be in the same color. All other languages will have a separate color and should be translated separately.

Do align text across all modes for the different variables in mixed mode surveys.

Remember that the questions must align completely between SMS and IVR surveys. You cannot have a questionnaire step (e.g., explanation, multiple choice, numeric) for SMS but not IVR – and vice versa. The number of questions and variables should be the same across all modes.

Tips for Version Control

It’s common to make changes to content (SMS text, IVR script, IVR audio files) when designing and testing a survey. Follow these guidelines to avoid pitfalls with managing different versions.

DO use unique IDs for each piece of text and audio.

Any time you make changes, we recommend using unique ID numbers to track changes. If you don’t, you may load an old piece of content in the tool by mistake.

Use a unique ID number for each unique piece of content. The ID number contains four components:

  • Serial Number
  • Language
  • Variable name
  • Version number

Establish a convention for the file names. For example, if you are working on version #4 of the French “smoke” variable that is a question (serial number) #2, the ID would be “2_French_smoke_v4”. Version #2 of question #8 that is the Arabic “age” variable would be “8_Arabic_age_v2”.

Some tips for assigning ID numbers:

  • Avoid abbreviations – e.g., spell out “Arabic” instead of “A” or “ARB”
  • Use the order above (serial number, language, variable name, version) in constructing the ID. This will allow you to quickly locate the files during the upload process.
  • Note: the ID number does not have mode (SMS versus IVR) in it.

Do update ID numbers.

List the ID number in the Master Questionnaire Spreadsheet. Any time you make a change to the content, add a row to the Master Questionnaire Spreadsheet and list the subsequent version number and updated text.

Do not include a version number in the Master Questionnaire Spreadsheet name. We recommend using one Master Questionnaire Spreadsheet to track the different iterations of questions.