When planning or designing a survey, it is crucial to clearly define the question to be answered by the results. (Surveys with vague or broad objectives tend to be too lengthy or difficult to analyze.) Prior to designing a survey, other evaluative methods (e.g., focus groups) should also be considered, as they will likely be more useful in some contexts.

Once a target question has been identified, the surveyor should conduct a review of existing data to determine whether information that would inform the target question has already been collected through results data from past or current surveys.