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Windshield Tours: A Method for Conducting a Needs Assessment

Filed Under:
Publication Number: P3971
View as PDF: P3971.pdf


Consists of physical, structural, and social observations to understand and identify gaps within the context and lifestyles of people in a community.

How to use

  1. Choose the survey conductor.
  2. Decide the types of observations and/or questions.
  3. Select the areas to be surveyed, preferably with a map.
  4. Choose the date and time of the survey.
  5. Train survey assistants.
  6. Conduct the survey.

Use When

  • An in-depth look at specific community characteristics, resources, and conditions is needed.
  • Vital resources that are lacking need to be identified.


  • Ideal for becoming familiar with a specific area
  • Assesses general community needs
  • Provides an overview of a community by driving through it


  • Time-consuming
  • High variability potential
  • Requires many resources (i.e., people, pathways, maps, a navigation system, transportation, etc.)


Farquhar, S. A., Parker, A., Schulz, A. J., & Israel, B. A. (2006). Application of qualitative methods in program planning for health promotion interventions. Society for Public Health Education, 7(2), 234–242.

Guin, N.B. (2020). Windshield and walking surveys in community health nursing. International Journal of Science and Research, 9(11).

McCarthy, S. (2021). What is a windshield survey? Washtenaw Community College Library.

McGillivray, M. E., Augart, S., Cranwell, J., Goerzen, M., Hong, Mia., Lee, R., Paxman, N., Solademi, J., Velji, Z., & Donnelly, T.T. (2017). Enhancing social diversity and communication in an assisted living facility for older adults: A community health nursing project. International Journal of Nursing Student Scholarship, 4.

Rabinowitz, P. (n.d). Windshield and walking surveys. Community Toolbox University of Kansas.

Taylor, D. K., Carravallah, L, Hamp, M., Buterakos, J., & Motarjemi, R. (2006). Windshield tour: A journey towards cultural competency. Medical Education Online, 11(1).


The information given here is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products, trade names, or suppliers are made with the understanding that no endorsement is implied and that no discrimination against other products or suppliers is intended.

Publication 3971 (POD-02-24)

By Drew Cole, Doctoral Student, Agricultural and Extension Education, Patricia Marie Cordero-Irizarry, Doctoral Student, Agricultural and Extension Education, and Donna J. Peterson, PhD, Extension Professor, Human Sciences.

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