Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2019

Charting Death and Thinking about Epidemics

What are the leading causes of death in the United States? Based on what you have read or learned from news sources, what did you expect to see in the top five? If you thought of one that is missing, perhaps it is in the top 10. Still, when you look at the numbers, you may be surprised to learn how few people die in a given year, given the size of the US population. My point in this post is that we ought to examine total data instead of being guided by the headlines of news stories and misleading charts when we want to understand a health or social condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the five leading causes of death in 2017 were heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. The report includes more causes, but I chose the top five based on the deaths per 100,000 U.S. standard population. When you add the numbers for the five causes, you find the top five causes of death accounted for 445 peo

7 Tips for Writing Better Survey Items

So many people are creating surveys in schools, government agencies, and major corporations. Some are better than others. Here are seven tips. 1  Stay focused on your goal.  Avoid asking everything you can think of on a subject. Unfortunately, I've been on project teams that would not heed this advice. Participants get frustrated and leave surveys incomplete. 2  Ask only one question at a time. Have someone look at your items to see if they are confused about what you are asking. 3  Use easy-to-understand language. Know your audience and how they use language. Again, ask a few people to check your wording. 4  Write well. Some participants will drop out of your survey when they identify misspelled words, common punctuation errors, and problems of grammar. 5  Cover all possible answers. If you aren't sure you have listed every option, then add an "other" option with a place to write in another response. This may lessen the frustration of participants