You don’t have to be ‘good at maths’ and certainly not a statistician to be able to turn your survey results into useful information. However, if you can find someone in your breed who is confident in handling data and presenting numerical results, that will probably be useful.
This is likely to be the most time-consuming part of any survey because you need to ensure that the results you eventually present are accurate and meaningful.
If you are using an online survey tool, this can save you some time because it may have an analysis and reporting function built in. If it doesn’t, you will almost certainly have to download the data in a format that you can then analyse in a spreadsheet or database.
IT tools to support your survey
Whatever type of survey you decide to conduct, you are going to need some software to collate and help analyse the responses. Your options really fall into two groups of software:
- desktop software that you have installed on your computer
- online software that you access via the internet
|Windows PC||Apple Mac|
|Spreadsheet options||Microsoft Excel
Open Office Calc
Open Office Calc
|Database options||Microsoft Access
Open Office Base
Open Office Base
Most people will have one of the Microsoft Office suites on their computer and, providing you are reasonably proficient, their spreadsheets can be used to carry out quite sophisticated analyses. Their databases are potentially more powerful in terms of the level of analysis that you can carry out, but the downside is that they can be more difficult to learn to use than a spreadsheet.
With your survey results in a spreadsheet, it’s easy to use the in-built data functions to produce summaries of, e.g.:
- How many dogs had a particular health condition
- How many dogs had no health issues reported
- How many dogs died
- What was the average age of death
- What proportion of dogs had been bred from
- Whether there was any difference between the health issues of dogs and bitches
The most commonly understood average is the mean, which is calculated by adding up all the data values and dividing by the number of data points. e.g. if 10 dogs die at the following ages we can calculate their average age of death:
Dog 1: 6
Dog 2: 6.5
Dog 3: 7
Dog 4: 7
Dog 5: 7
Dog 6: 7.5
Dog 7: 8
Dog 8: 8
Dog 9: 10
Dog 10: 13
The mean age of death of these 10 dogs is 8 (add up all the dogs’ ages and divide by 10).
A second type of average is called the median and it is this value that has usually been quoted when the results of the 2004 KC/BSAVA health survey are reported. The median is the middle value of all the data points when they are listed in order from smallest to biggest. So, in our example above, the median is half-way between the fifth and sixth dogs’ ages, which in this case is 7.25.
A third type of average is the mode, which is the most commonly occurring value in the set of data.
In our example, the mode is 7. As you can see, it’s possible to get different answers depending on which ‘average’ you calculate.
Tip: most of the time, the mean is perfectly fine and is what most of your readers would recognise as the ‘average’.
Sometimes, if your data include some extreme values, e.g. puppy deaths, using the mean would skew the average to a lower value and therefore the median would be more meaningful.
Tip: Information on trends is really important because it will tell you if you need to be taking action, or if the actions you are taking are working.
- Tables of data
Tips for tables
e.g. in this table:
Provide row/column averages or totals to help focus attention and also include a verbal summary to help your readers.
e.g. you might summarise, from this table:
Graphs and charts
- Pie chart
- Bar chart
- Line graph
- Good for: showing proportions, at a glance
- Not good for: showing trends or comparisons over time
- Good for: showing quantities of responses in different categories; often best when sorted into biggest to smallest
- Not good for: showing data over time (use a line graph instead)
- Good for: showing the variation in a set of data and to help decide if the mean or median are the best choice of average to quote
- Not good for: showing variations over time
- Good for: showing how results have changed over time (trends)
- Not good for: comparing lots of different sets of results (too many lines make it hard to see what’s going on)
Tables and graphs are the two main ways for you to present the results of your survey.
Use tables when you have 10 or fewer data points, or if you need people to see the exact numerical values in your results.
Use graphs when you have more than 10 data points, or if you want to show people “the big picture”, not detailed data. Don’t clutter a graph with too many different sets of data; it’s usually better to split the data into separate graphs.
Tip: Tables and graphs should have clear titles and a written commentary to help your reader draw conclusions.
Remember, your data may be complex, but your presentation should be simple.
What are your survey responses telling you?
In a toolkit like this we can’t tell you what conclusions to draw from your survey. However, you might find any of the following:
- Health concerns that you weren’t previously aware of
- Health issues that are either more, or less, prevalent than you previously suspected
- Confirmation of anecdotal evidence of health problems
- Confirmation that the health plans you already have in place do reflect the real priorities
- Evidence that actions you have already taken with health plans are making a difference
Identify actions to take
- No measurement without recording
- No recording without analysis
- No analysis without action
Tip: Don’t try to tackle every health issue at once! There is some value in starting with something that is doable, so that you can gain support and confidence from a wide group of breeders and owners.
The actions you plan to take will depend on a number of factors:
- The severity and impact of any particular health condition in your breed
- Whether or not any clinical or DNA screening tests are available
- The prevalence of the condition in your breed
- The genetic diversity of your breed
- How quickly a condition can be tackled (without adversely affecting genetic diversity)
- How easy it is to educate and inform breeders about health issues and solutions
Writing up your results
- Executive summary (a condensed description of your work and its findings)
- Contents page
- Introduction (why you decided to carry out the survey and any relevant background information)
- Methodology (how you carried out your survey)
- Results (what you found)
- Discussion and conclusions (what you think your findings mean and what your next steps are.
Tip: Write the executive summary after you have written the rest of the report. Read through each section and highlight 2-3 key sentences that summarise that section, then combine these into a paragraph.
Tip: Be careful not to present the same data more than once. If you give information in a table or as text, then you may not need to show it again in a graph.
Graphs can be a very useful tool for showing results, but remember that they can take up a lot of space, so do not overuse them in a report. If you include a graph, make sure everything is clearly labelled, including axis, units and values. Make sure to give the graph a heading that summarises what it shows. If using a table you could write a brief summary which highlights the main points of the table. Don’t overdo it: readers can always look at the details in the table if they want to.
Tip: The use of colour in graphs is helpful, but remember that your report may be printed in black and white, or photocopied, so you may want to use patterns or choose colours that can easily be distinguished when displayed in greyscale, e.g. light blue vs. dark red.
If any of your questions required a free-text response, then organise and summarise the respondent’s views. e.g. “501 people responded to the question ‘What concerns you most about health of your breed?’, 58% (252 respondents) said they were concerned about eye problems, 30% (149 respondents) hip conditions and 20% (100 respondents) heart conditions”. You can quote directly from some of the survey responses, but only if they clearly illustrate a view representative of the respondents.
Tip: Report the data without any “spin”. Surveys are meant to be objective, so present the information as it stands.
Discussion and conclusions
State all of your major findings and what they mean. If your results differ from your expectations, explain why that may have occurred. If your results agree, then explain why this was. You may suggest future directions, such as questions you may ask in future surveys. Also, indicate if the overall goals and objectives were met and if there will be follow-up surveys in the future.
Publicise the results
The most obvious way to publicise the survey’s results is through a report which you can make available as a document download from your club/council website health pages. You could also use the results to create specific web pages on individual health conditions, where you explain the
condition, its symptoms and what the survey tells you about the condition in your breed.
Tip: Think about opportunities to use the survey results as part of your breed’s regular communication on health. e.g. you could publish a sequence of articles monthly, based on survey results for different health conditions.
If you’re using social media, you can achieve much wider publicity for your survey results through Facebook, Twitter and discussion groups. Don’t forget the specialist dog press and monthly pet magazines; if you’ve got a good news story, send them a media release or a short article and ask if they will publish it.
Tip: Look for as many different online options for publicising your survey results as possible, as well as the more conventional paper-based options such as breed club newsletters.
Implement your priority actions
Review and repeat the survey
- Review progress to ensure your health action plans are being implemented
- Identify what you have learned about doing a survey and improve the way you do it next time
- Repeat your survey at regular intervals
By carrying out a regular survey you will be able to compare trends over time. Ideally, annual surveys would be performed, but this does require a significant amount of time and effort and you may find that it is more practical to repeat your survey every two or three years. Alternatively, you may want to consider making a continuous survey available so that data can be gathered throughout the year.
Tip: If you implement a continuous online survey, you can publish a summary of the results in your breed’s annual health report.