If the organization conducting the survey follows proper procedures, will the survey results be a true reflection of a population's characteristics, attitudes or opinions?
Yes, usually. However, remember that according to the laws of chance, the survey results may differ at times from the population's actual characteristics, attitudes or opinions simply because of chance variation in the selected sample of people, or because of sampling error.
Will the survey use external information sources to improve or to validate its results?
Comparisons to external sources of information, such as other surveys or administrative data, can be used to correct for biases, or simply to verify that the survey results make sense. The survey does not exist in isolation.
For example, many surveys of human populations calibrate their results to Census data totals or distributions or to other widely-accepted data sources.
Should survey results be believed?
A healthy degree of skepticism about survey results is desirable. If the survey methods and results can withstand skeptical scrutiny, then the properly conducted survey can be the best objective means for gathering information about a population.
What outputs (deliverables) can you expect from your survey provider?
At a minimum you should receive a report describing the purpose of the survey and its key findings. The report should also include a brief description of the methods used and a full set of tabular estimates.
You may have to negotiate with the provider to present the results to your organization, live and on site.
You may also have to arrange with the provider to prepare more elaborate analyses for you or to give you advice on what analytical methods to apply to the data. This of course depends on whether you have arranged to receive the complete data file.