Brief Tips on Developing Surveys of Child Care Providers
Heather Sandstrom, Julia B. Isaacs
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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. 

Primary 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?


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.
  • 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.
  • Follow best practices in writing questions; consider the order of questions, word choice, and response options.


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

Research Areas Education Children and youth
Tags Child care Early childhood education Kids in context Child care and early childhood education
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population