Dissertation Journal: Final Instrument Designed and Printed

My survey instrument has been through its final design process and I’ve printed the first set.  The final design process moved things around a bit to make the instrument easier to scan and added a blank space for the survey ID.

The final instrument was delivered to me not in the format I expected.  I thought it would be in a format that would allow me to easily perform a mail merge to insert the survey IDs for each survey.  Since this instrument is physically a separate sheet of paper, I have to be able to match this instrument to the main BCSSE survey instrument (because I’m using demographic information from BCSSE).  To do that matching, I am printing survey IDs on each of my surveys that correspond to the survey IDs already printed on the BCSSE surveys.  I am then physically inserting my survey into the BCSSE survey (which is a 8.5×17 sheet folded in half).  Having the same ID on both instruments will ensure that we can match the responses to these surveys even if the two instruments are separated after the students complete them.

The final instrument as I received it is exactly what is linked above.  It has a blank for the survey ID but how do I insert the ID?  More specifically, how do I easily insert the ID for hundreds of surveys?  Here is what I’m doing:

  1. Create an Excel spreadsheet with the survey IDs I need to insert (each participating BCSSE institution is pre-assigned a range of survey IDs so I know them in advance).
  2. Create a mail merge document in Word.  This document has only one thing in it: a mail merge field in the bottom right corner.  This document uses the previously-created spreadsheet as its data source and the field is placed on the document such that it lines up with the blank Survey ID space on the pdf of the survey instrument.
  3. Complete the mail merge, generating a Word document that consists of a bunch of blank pages with survey IDs in the bottom right corner.
  4. Print the mail merged document to pdf.
  5. Open the new pdf and add the final survey instrument as the background of each page.

This process is not the most straight forward way to create a mail merged document but given my situation it’s not bad.  Although it’s a tiny bit convoluted it works reasonably well.  This process might not work if it had to be more precise (i.e. inserting new text into a block of existing text) but since I have a large target that is an empty box I don’t have to worry about precision.

(I was initially guided to this process – specifically the idea to use the instrument as a background image on another pdf – by this 2-year old thread on MacRumors.com.)

I’ve used this process to print the first set of 375 surveys to be mailed later today or tomorrow to an institution in New England.  It should work well for the other 3885 surveys I will be mailing to nine other institutions in the coming months.