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When you’re trying to build a case for something or need to increase credibility for a particular argument, a great way to start is to cite a survey. You can do this by finding an existing, published survey that supports your position, or by creating your own survey and sending it out, hoping that the majority of responses will favor what you believe to be true.
Regardless of survey results, however, it’s necessary to let your audience know where and how you obtained the information in your report. That’s where citations come in.
What is a Citation?
No, we’re not talking about that traffic citation you got a while back. In the world of research and writing, a citation is how you inform readers that a reference or quote you’re using in your research came from another source.
Citations also provide your audience with a method of finding the source again. In an internet blog such as this, it could be as simple as including a hyperlink that directs the reader to the original site housing the information you referenced.
When it’s not possible to link, such as in a printed piece, it’s important to include the following information:
- Author’s (or authors’) name(s)
- Title of the work
- Publisher’s name
- Publication date
- Page(s) or section(s) referenced
Benefits of Citing Sources
Because of the wealth of information at our fingertips online, “borrowing” information without giving credit is all too common. So, the most obvious benefit of properly citing an outside source is that it protects you from accusations of plagiarism. But there are other great benefits:
- Citing outside sources lends credibility to your ideas or arguments.
- Citing sources shows that significant research was involved.
- If the information you’re citing happens to be wrong or inaccurate, adding a citation absolves you of having to take full ownership of the misinformation.
Sourcing a Survey
When you want to reference a survey, you need to let readers know where the survey results came from. Otherwise, they will have a tendency to not believe you. Sourcing a survey properly comes down to whether you conducted the survey yourself or are referencing a published survey, as well as whether you are using Modern Language Association (MLA) style, American Psychological Association (APA) style, or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) in your writing.
Citing a Survey You Conducted
When citing a survey that you conducted on your own, clarify that you designed and distributed the survey in the body of your content rather than citing it at the end of the survey. You should explain the methodology you used (e.g., “an online survey distributed to 1,000 graduate students”). While not necessary, including the survey itself, either as an appendix or through an online link, helps your audience better understand the methodology. You may even choose to disclose data sets, being sure to remove any personal or private information, in a spreadsheet.
Speaking of anonymity, if you refer to a comment made by a respondent in your survey, always refer to them as “a respondent,” not by name. You can, however, give them pseudonyms to avoid repetition as long as you note that the names have been changed to protect privacy.
Citing Published Survey Data
When citing a survey conducted by someone else, whether it’s the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Google Trends or a Gallup Poll, you need to provide your readers with the source. As mentioned previously, you can provide a hyperlink within your online report, otherwise you need to cite your survey using MLA, APA, or CMOS guidelines.
MLA and APA guidelines are similar. You should use in-text citations that correlate with a “Works Cited” list as the end of the report. For example, say you were referencing a statistic from this Pew Research Center survey on internet usage, published by Andrew Perrin and Madhu Kumar. In the body of your report, you’d cite the authors’ last names and the page number (since this is a web page, use page 1) and put their words into quotations.
Today, everyone is online. In fact, “about three-in-ten U.S. adults say they are ‘almost constantly’ online” (Perrin & Kumar 1).
Then, in your “Works Cited” list at the end of the report, you’d give the complete details or the citation.
Perrin, Andrew, and Kumar, Madhu. “About three-in-ten U.S. adults say they are ‘almost constantly’ online.” Pew Research Center, 25 July 2019, p. 1
In CMOS, you would instead include a superscript number that correlates to the source, which will be noted at the bottom of the page and in the Bibliography at the end of the report (similar to a “Works Cited” page). So, in the body of your report, that same sentence would look like this:
Today, everyone is online. In fact, “about three-in-ten U.S. adults say they are ‘almost constantly’ online”.¹
At the end of that same page, you would insert a small footnote with that superscript number attached for reference:
1Perrin, Andrew, and Kumar, Madhu. About three-in-ten U.S. adults say they are ‘almost constantly’ online. (Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center, 2019)
Again, this same information would appear, in a list along with other citations, in a final Bibliography at the end of the report.
It’s important to understand that we’re painting with a broad brush; citing surveys with MLA, APA, and CMOS comes with little quirks, and there are exceptions to many rules. To gain a full understanding of how to cite surveys with each style, you may want to refer to Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) which gets very in-depth.
Create Your Surveys with SurveyLegend
Now that you have a better understanding of how to cite a survey, are you ready to start creating one? SurveyLegend offers both fun and professional survey templates you can use for any industry, and they’re responsive, so they’ll scale down to the size of a smartphone. Swing by the SurveyLegend website and take a tour of our capabilities to discover all that you can do.
Create your first survey, form or poll now!