Inescapable Laws of Survey

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When they ask you to do a survey: GORDON'S FIRST LAW

  • If a research project is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well.

When writing a survey proposal: LAUNEGAYER'S OBSERVATION

  • Asking dumb questions is easier than correcting dumb mistakes.

When planning logistics (don’t be too dependent on equipment): PHILLIPS' LAW

  • The better the 4WD, the further away you will be when you get stuck.

When doing pre-survey library research: WEINER'S LAW OF LIBRARIES

  • There are no answers, only cross-references.

When defining research questions for a survey: BARUCH'S OBSERVATION

  • If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

When selecting tools: COCHRANE'S APHORISM for physicians

  • Before ordering a test decide what you will do if it is 1) positive or 2) negative. If both answers are the same, don’t do the test.

When formulating interview questions: MURRAY'S LAWS

  1. Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
  2. Never ask a salesman if his is a good price.

When researching population, history, etc. (know when to stop): SEGAL'S LAW

  • A man with one watch knows what time it is.
  • A man with two watches is never sure.

When consulting on someone else's survey: THE ROMAN RULE

  • The one who says it cannot be done should never interrupt the one who is doing it.

When gathering data: LEVY'S NINTH LAW

  • Only God can make a random selection.

When analysing the data: FOURTH LAW OF REVISION

  • After painstaking and careful analysis of a sample, you are always told that it is the wrong sample and does not apply to the problem.

Remember to define your terms! COHEN'S LAW

  • What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts-- not the facts themselves.

When drawing conclusions: THUMB'S FIRST POSTULATE

  • It is better to solve a problem with a crude approximation and know the truth + 10%, than to demand an exact solution and not know the truth at all.

At unexpected times throughout the course of a survey: OLIVIER'S LAW

  • Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

compiled by Douglas Boone