Tips on Developing Surveys of Child Care Providers

Publication Date: September 3, 2020
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  • Published: 2020


Research Questions

  1. What are the pros and cons of different survey modes?
  2. What are some tips for writing good survey questions?
  3. Why should you test a survey? What are some ways to test that it works well?

As states and territories make decisions about child care policies, they may find it useful to collect data from child care providers. Survey data can be helpful for answering questions about providers’ characteristics and experiences. Yet surveys can be difficult to design. This brief discusses best practices for developing and testing surveys.

A one-page tip sheet lists suggestions for writing strong survey questions. 


This brief describes best practices for developing and testing surveys of child care providers.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Before developing a survey, identify your study goals and research questions so you can decide whether a survey is the best method for collecting data.
  • Review existing data to help you decide whether you need to collect new data on all topics you are interested in.
  • Identify your target population—the group you want to collect data on—and their characteristics. Child care providers are diverse in many ways, so you might need more than one questionnaire or different versions. Determine the best way to collect the data (i.e., telephone, web, mail, in-person) based on the providers you want to reach, project resources, and your desired response rate.
  • Follow best practices in writing questions; consider the order of questions, word choice, and response options.
  • Consider testing your survey in different ways before collecting data to make sure the questions are clear and not biased and the survey is an appropriate length.


This brief is based on a review of resources on best practices in survey development, expert input, and the authors’ research experience.


Sandstrom, Heather, and Julia Isaacs. Tips on Developing Surveys of Child Care Providers. OPRE Report # 2020-114, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


a series of questions for people to answer so you can gather information from them. A questionnaire is sometimes referred to as a survey instrument.
Response rate:
the number of people who answered the survey divided by the number of people in the sample. A response rate is usually expressed as a percentage.
a study that involves collecting data by asking a sample of people to respond to a set of questions.
Survey mode:
the method used to carry out the survey, such as paper, telephone, or web. The mode can also refer to whether the survey is self-administered or administered by an interviewer.
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