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Collecting quantitative data

Ben Anderson from UCL IGP discusses quantitative data collection

Watch the interview with Ben Anderson, UCL Institute of Prosperity, about a ‘citizen science’ research project conducted in East London that used a quantitative survey to find out what people valued in their neighbourhoods.

In the video, Ben explains how the researchers first collected qualitative data before producing a survey questionnaire to collect quantitative data.

The RELIEF Centre is leading on a survey like this in Ras Beirut in collaboration with community based citizen scientists.

Citizen scientist is the term that the RELIEF Centre uses for community based researchers that collaborate with us on our research projects. Citizen scientists are involved in all aspects of the research process from designing research questions to collecting and analysing data and sharing findings.

Creating your own questionnaire

On a much smaller scale, you could develop your own questionnaire to collect quantitative data based on an initial qualitative research project. There are many free digital tools to help you create questionnaires. Most are designed to deliver your questionnaire digitally, for participants to complete on a computer or mobile phone. Some, such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms, also allow you to print a paper version (for Survey Monkey, you will need to save the questionnaire as a PDF first), so that participants can complete it with pen and paper.

Some tools help you analyse your results by automatically creating tables or charts, such as Survey Monkey, Microsoft Forms or Typeform, but these tools require the participants’ data to be entered digitally. If there are not too many participants, you could collect data manually from them, and then input it online yourself.

One of the ways you can move from small scale qualitative research to a larger scale survey is to create ‘multiple choice questions’ based on the results from your qualitative research. A multiple choice question poses a question and then presents a limited set of possible answers. From your qualitative analysis you will have some idea of what kinds of perceptions people have on a topic. So you could ask about that topic, list a few of the main perceptions you have identified, and ask participants to select the one that comes closest to their view. It is always good practice also to allow them to write in an ‘Other’ view. Then you collect those as well if they cannot select one of the options. In this way, you can build on the ‘qualitative’ categories of ideas or perspectives from a few interviewees to generate the proportions of people who hold those views by using a larger scale survey.

Question types vary and will produce different kinds of data. When designing a question, you should think of what you want to know and what kind of data the responses will be likely to produce. Most important: test the questions you develop by (a) trying to answer them yourself – how easy do you find it? and (b) trying them out on a friend or colleague – how easy do they find it? This will help you to improve them, and ask better questions.

To find out more about designing survey questions this free Creative Commons-licensed e-book explains multiple choice questions and other question types among other aspects of collecting and analysing qualitative data.


Read this extract from a qualitative study of transportation challenges among stroke survivors in Hawai’i. The study presents participants’ experiences of informal transportation (i.e. a family car), public transportation (e.g. a bus or taxi) or specialist transportation (e.g. a service provided specifically for people with disabilities).

Then consider two multiple choice questions for a survey with options based on the data presented. You can find the full paper here but don’t worry you don’t need to read it all!

Barriers to Informal Transportation

While informal transportation was preferred by participants, this option was not always available to the participants in our study. Participants noted several challenges to informal transportation. For example, Sondra, a caregiver, explained that she drives her husband wherever he needs to go, because it is the safest option. However, she explained that he “[has] to squeeze into my little Kia Accent.” This suggests that having a car that is suitable for a person with a disability (ie, a minivan or larger vehicle) is essential if a patient is using transportation provided by caregivers, and the absence of a well-suited vehicle can pose an important challenge. In addition, Sondra said, “… if he had to go somewhere, I would have to take off from work.” Sondra works full time and helps her husband eat, manage medications, do physical therapy, and shower. This illustrates that informal transportation potentially places an additional burden on caregivers to make themselves available to patients at times that may not be mutually convenient (1).

Here are two versions of a multiple choice question you could include in a survey to extend the study to a larger number of stroke survivors:

Question 1

What problems do you have in using informal transportation?

  • Car not big enough
  • Car not adapted for my needs
  • Driver not available
  • Other assistance not available

Question 2

What barriers do you experience while travelling using your own or caregivers’ transportation (e.g. family car)?

  • Lack of availability of car suitable for someone with my disabilities
  • Scheduling challenges due to caregivers’ other work commitments
  • Scheduling challenges due to caregivers’ other home commitments
  • Other

Which of these questions do you think would produce better results? Think about how easy it would be for someone to answer the questions and the kind of data they would create.


  1. Ing MM, Vento MA, Nakagawa K, Linton KF. A qualitative study of transportation challenges among intracerebral hemorrhage survivors and their caregivers. Hawaii J Med Public Heal. 2014;73(11):353–7.

Over to you

Share your thoughts on these two questions in the discussion. Like any of the other comments you agree with and reply to others to clarify for yourself what makes a good multiple choice survey question.

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