Creating Online Reports with Survey Software
Most survey software offers some sort of reporting, but in most cases it is rather basic, usually just showing how many people picked each choice, and perhaps simple crosstabs. These are not adequate for professional analysis.
Professionals need more. They need to be able to create banners, which are like multiple crosstabs side-by-side. These make it possible to view several demographic breakdowns at once, making it easier to see differences. They also need both summary and significance level statistics. The first can give you more information from your data and the second can tell you how likely differences you see in your data reflect differences in the larger world.
Professionals also need to be able to customize the appearance of their reports. Advanced survey software lets users choose fonts, colors, whether or not to show gridlines and what to see in each data cell – frequencies, column percents, row percents, total percents, means, standard deviations and so on.
Advanced programs also let users create different styles or formats for different questions in a study. For example, it is useful to show the answers to a question such as “Which magazines do you read?” in popularity order, with the most read magazine appearing on top, regardless of its position in the list of answer choices. But the answers to other questions have a natural order, regardless of the popularity of each choice. For example, if the answer choices are “excellent,” “good,” “fair” and “poor,” you would always want to display the results in that order, even if “good” is picked more often than “excellent.” The most sophisticated survey software lets you tailor formats even further. For example, in the magazine question the choices “none” and “don’t know” should always appear at the bottom of the list, even if they were picked more often than Time or People.
While online reporting is used most often with online data collection, that doesn’t have to be the case. Some researchers like to post all their results online, so their clients can see them, even if the data was collected via telephone, mail or face-to-face. A flexible program can let clients make some choices, such as choosing a crosstab not provided by the researcher, while otherwise staying with the choices the researcher thinks appropriate for a particular question. Such online reporting can be a good value added service provided by researchers.