RSI designs and conducts surveys for courts and ADR organizations for a variety of evaluation and research contexts. If you have a question that can be answered by a survey, we can help you answer it. We use field-tested, validated surveys to get reliable results. Surveys are deceptively difficult to create. It seems simple to come up with a set of questions and response options, but bad surveys abound — surveys that ask unanswerable questions or questions that will not obtain the hoped-for information. We help courts and ADR organizations ensure they don’t waste time creating and disseminating bad surveys that in the end aren’t useful.
RSI’s process for developing surveys is collaborative. We have the expertise; you know what you want to know. Together, we determine what needs to be included in the survey to get the information you need. For each survey we design, we do the following:
Determine the Parameters of the Survey
We start by discussing the goals of the survey: What do you want to learn from the survey, and what do you hope to be able to do with the information?
Design the Survey
RSI writes the questions to be included in the survey, then checks in to see if we need to tweak the language to fit your setting. We also determine the best time and method for parties to complete the survey, whether on paper just after mediation, or later, through an invitation to complete the survey online.
Design Recruitment Letters
Research has shown that the wording on a survey invitation has a significant impact on the survey response rate. We base our wording on research and fit it to the particular context.
Pilot the Survey
If the survey has not yet been tested in a similar setting, RSI highly recommends piloting the survey. If RSI conducts the survey, we test the survey with a small number of people who are similar to those who will be asked to complete the survey. This will ensure two things: that the survey questions are understood correctly by the target population, and that the survey is not overly long or difficult, which would reduce survey completion.
Distribute the Survey
If RSI is conducting the survey as well as designing it, we ensure that survey invitations are sent to all appropriate individuals, and that invitations are repeated for individuals who do not respond to the initial invitation. We track the response rate and tweak the recruitment process if the rate is not sufficient.
Analyze the Survey Responses
Once the survey period has ended, we analyze responses to uncover patterns and calculate correlations as needed.
RSI tailors our reports to your needs. We know that, by and large, people are too busy to read long reports. Therefore, although we do provide full-length reports for our large projects, we also determine the best method to communicate evaluation findings to you and your stakeholders.
Project Example: Assessing a Statewide Mediation Landscape
RSI was asked by a state bar association to develop a survey for judges regarding their experiences with and assessments of mediation in their jurisdictions, and then to analyze the results and provide recommendations for future steps to support the use of mediation in the state. The survey yielded surprising insights about the perceived need for mediation in the state and led to recommendations for addressing mediation needs that the state bar had not anticipated. The state bar expected that a lack of interest or understanding of mediation would be the main barrier to its use. Instead, RSI found that many judges were interested in more mediation being conducted for self-represented litigants, but said they lacked the resources to provide this service.
Project Example: Developing a Statewide Mediation Participant Survey
When the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC) wanted to collect more data from family mediation programs around the state, they asked RSI to assist in developing a participant survey. RSI customized a survey that we had previously tested with mediation participants and then collaborated with the AOIC to ensure the question language fit the Illinois court context. Once the drafts were finalized, the AOIC distributed the surveys to all judicial circuits.