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Sample Survey for Assessing Risk Communication Needs


(Chess and Hance 1992)

  1. Approximately what percentage of your on-the-job time, on average, do you spend interacting with the public?_____

  2. What are the different publics you communicate with? (check all that apply)
    [ ] community members [ ] local government officials [ ] state government officials [ ] reporters [ ] environmental groups [ ] health professionals [ ] other, please specify_____________________________

  3. What do you think will most help you improve your communication with the public?
  4. What do you think will most help your organization improve its communication with the public?
  5. What kind of assistance in dealing with the public would you most like to have?
  6. If your organization provides training on communicating with the public, what should it be sure to include?
  7. What should it be sure to avoid?
  8. Any other comments?

2. Individual Interviews (telephone or in person)

Purpose: Can answer questions similar to self-administered questionnaires; probe for individual's responses, and beliefs; discuss range of issues

Application: Develop hypotheses, messages, potentially motivating strategies; discuss sensitive issues or complex draft materials

Number of Respondants: Dependent on variables of issue urgency and complexity, time, and money. For a ballpark figure, get 10 opinions.

Resources Required: List of respondents; discussion guide/questionnaire; trained interviewer, telephone or quiet room, tape recorder (optional)

Pros: In-depth responses may differ from first response; can test sensitive or emotional materials; can test more complex/longer materials; can learn more about "hard-to-reach" audiences; can be used with individuals who have limited reading and writing skills

Cons: Time consuming to conduct/analyze; expensive; may yield to firmer conclusions or consensus

3. Focus Group Interviews

Purpose: To obtain insight into the target audience's perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes about draft materials. Readability and understandability of print materials can also be addressed.

Application: Testing broad concepts, issues, audiovisual or print materials, and logos or other artwork.

Number of Respondants: 8-10 group. Usually, the number of groups is dependent on program needs and resources. Minimum 2 groups per type of respondent. When target audience perceptions are comparable, additional focus group sessions are not necessary.

Resources Required: Participants representative of the target audience, recruitment screening instrument, moderator's guide, trained moderator, focus group facility with one-way mirror and audio-and videotape capability (optional).

Pros: Capture of real-life data in a social environment where the moderator can interact directly with respondents; group interaction and length of discussion can stimulate more in-depth responses than individual interviews; can discuss concepts prior to materials development; can gather more opinions at once than individual interviews; can cover multiple topics; flexibility and ability to probe for more information; high face validity and an easily understood technique compared to sophisticated survey research employing complex statistical analyses; provision of data more quickly than individual interviews; and richness of data as the group participants react and build upon the responses of others in an open format.

Cons: Too few responses for consensus or decisionmaking; no individual responses (group influence) unless combined with other methods; can be expensive; respondents choose to attend and may not be typical of the target population; less control of the responses by the moderator than in individual interviews; difficult analysis of data (e.g., summarization, interpretation); special skills are required of moderators and moderator bias may occur; troublesome differences between groups (e.g., opposite responses); difficulty in recruiting participants; can be expensive; and logistical problems (e.g., arranging location, dates, and times, incentive payments, and refreshments).

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