If your project involves live interaction with numerous people in order to obtain important data, you should know the basic rules of survey research beforehand. Today we’ll talk about this research type, review the step-by-step guide on how to do a survey research and try to understand main advantages and potential pitfalls.
The following important questions will be discussed below:
- Purpose and techniques of information collection.
- Kinds of responses.
- Analysis techniques, assumptions, and conclusions.
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What Is Survey Research: Definition
Let’s define the notion of survey research first. It revolves around surveys you conduct to retrieve certain data from your respondents. The latter is to be carefully selected from some population that for particular reasons possess the data necessary for your research. For example, they can be witnesses of some event that you should investigate.
Surveys contain a set of predefined questions, closed- or open-ended. They can be sent to participants who would answer them and thus provide you with data for your research. There are many methods for organizing surveys and processing the obtained information.
Purpose of Survey Research Design
Purpose of survey research is to collect proper data and thus get insights for your research. You should pick participants with relatable experience. It should be done in order to get relevant information from them. Questions in your survey should be formulated in a way that allows getting as much useful data as possible. The format of a survey should be adjusted to the situation. It will ensure your respondents will be ready to give their answers. It can be a questionnaire sent over email or questions asked during a phone call.
Surveys Research Methods
Which survey research method to choose? Let’s review the most popular approaches and when to use them.
There are two critical factors that define how a survey will be conducted
- Tool to send questions
- online: using web forms or email questionnaires.
- phone: reaching out to respondents individually. Sometimes using an automated service.
- face-to-face: interviewing respondents in the real world. This makes room for more in-depth questions.
- Time to conduct research
- short-term periods.
- long-term periods.
Let’s explore the time-related methods in detail.
Cross-Sectional Survey Design Research
The first type is cross sectional survey research. Design of this survey type includes collecting various insights from an audience within a specific short time period. It is used for descriptive analysis of a subject. The purpose is to provide quick conclusions or assumptions. Which is why this approach relies on fast data gathering and processing techniques.
Such surveys are typically implemented in sectors such as retail, education, healthcare etc, where the situation tends to change fast. So it is important to obtain operational results as soon as possible.
Longitudinal Survey Research
Let’s talk about survey research designs. Planning a design beforehand is crucial. It is crucial in case you are pressed on time or have a limited budget. Collecting information using a properly designed survey research is typically more effective and productive compared with a casually conducted study.
Preparation of a survey design includes the following major steps:
- Understand the aim of your research. So that you can better plan the entire path of a survey and avoid obvious issues.
- Pick a good sample from a population. Ensure precision of the results by selecting members who could provide useful insights and opinions.
- Review available research methods. Decide about the one most suitable for your specific case.
- Prepare a questionnaire. Selection of questions would directly affect the quality of your longitudinal analysis. So make sure to pick good questions. Also, avoid unnecessary ones to save time and counter possible errors.
- Analyze results and make conclusions.
Advantages of Survey Research
As a rule, survey research involves getting data from people with first-hand knowledge about the research subject. Therefore, when formulated properly, survey questions should provide some unique insights and thus describe the subject better.
Other benefits of this approach include:
- Minimum investment. Online and automated call services require very low investment per respondent.
- Versatile sources. Data can be collected by numerous means, allowing more flexibility.
- Reliable for respondents. Anonymous surveys are secure. Respondents are more likely to answer honestly if they understand it will be confidential.
Types of Survey Research
Let’s review the main types of surveys. It is important to know about most popular templates. So that you wouldn’t have to develop your own ones from scratch for your specific case. Such studies are usually categorized by the following aspects:
- Data source.
We’ll examine each of these aspects below, focusing on areas where certain types are used.
Types of Survey Research Depending on Objective
Depending on your objective and the specifics of the subject’s context, the following survey research types can be used:
- Predictive This approach foresees asking questions that automatically predict the best possible response options based on how they are formulated. As a result, it is often easier for respondents to provide their answers as they already have helpful suggestions.
- Exploratory This approach is focused more on the discovery of new ideas and insights rather than collecting statistically accurate information. The results can be difficult to categorize and analyze. But this approach is very useful for finding a general direction for further research.
- Descriptive This approach helps to define and describe your respondents' opinions or behavior more precisely. By predefining certain categories and designing survey questions, you obtain statistical data. This descriptive research approach is often used at later research stages. It is used in order to better understand the meaning of insights obtained at the beginning.
Types of Survey Research Depending on Data Source
The following research survey types can be defined based on which sources you obtain the data from:
- Primary In this case, you collect information directly from the original source, e.g., learn about a natural disaster from a survivor. You aren’t using any intermediary instances. And, as a result, don't get any information twisted or lost on its way. This is the way to obtain the most valid and trustworthy results. But at the same time, it is often not so easy to access such sources.
- Secondary This involves collecting data from existing research on the same subject that has been published. Such information is easier to access. But at the same time, it is usually too general and not tailored for your specific needs.
Types of Survey Research Depending on Methodology
Finally, let’s review survey research methodologies based on the format of retrieved and processed data. They can be:
- Quantitative An approach that focuses on gathering numeric or measurable data from respondents. This provides enough material for statistical analysis. And then leads to some meaningful conclusions. Collection of such data requires properly designed surveys that include numeric options. It is important to take precautions to ensure that the data you’ve gathered is valid.
- Qualitative Such surveys rely on opinions, impressions, reflections, and typical reactions of target groups. They should include open-ended questions to allow respondents to give detailed answers. It allows providing information that they consider most relevant. Qualitative research is used to understand, explain or evaluate some ideas or tendencies.
It is essential to differentiate these two kinds of research. That's why we prepared a special blog, which is about quantitative vs qualitative research.
How to Conduct a Survey Research: Main Steps
Now let’s find out how to do a survey step by step. Regardless of methods you use to design and conduct your survey, there are general guidelines that should be followed. The path is quite straightforward:
- Assess your goals and options for accessing necessary groups.
- Formulate each question in a way that helps you obtain the most valuable data.
- Plan and execute the distribution of the questions.
- Process the results.
Let’s take a closer look at all these stages.
Step 1. Create a Clear Survey Research Question
Each survey research question should add some potential value to your expected results. Before formulating your questionnaire, it is better to invest some time analyzing your target populations. This will allow you to form proper samples of respondents. Big enough to get some insights from them but not too big at the same time. A good way to prepare questions is by constructing case studies for your subject. Analyzing case study examples in detail will help you understand which information about them is necessary.
Step 2. Choose a Type of Survey Research
As we’ve already learned, there are several different types of survey research. Starting with a close analysis of your subject, goals and available sources will help you understand which kinds of questions are to be distributed.
As a researcher, you’ll also need to analyze the features of the selected group of respondents. Pick a type that makes it easier to reach out to them. For example, if you should question a group of elderly people, online forms wouldn’t be efficient compared with interviews.
Step 3. Distribute the Questionnaire for Your Survey Research
The next step of survey research is the most decisive one. Now you should execute the plan you’ve created earlier. And then conduct the questioning of the entire group that was selected. If this is a group assignment, ask your colleagues or peers for help. Especially if you should deal with a big group of respondents. It is important to stick to the initial scenario but leave some room for improvisation in case there are difficulties with reaching out to respondents. After you collect all necessary responses, this data can be processed and analyzed.
Step 4. Analyze the Results of Your Research Survey
The data obtained during the survey research should be processed. So that you can use it for making assumptions and conclusions. If it is qualitative, you should conduct a thematic analysis to find important ideas and insights that could confirm your theories or expand your knowledge of the subject. Quantitative data can be analyzed manually or with the help of some program. Its purpose is to extract dependencies and trends from it to confirm or refute existing assumptions.
Step 5. Save the Results of Your Survey Research
The final step is to compose a survey research paper in order to get your results ordered. This way none of them would be lost especially if you save some copies of the paper. Depending on your assignment and on which stage you are at, it can be a dissertation, a thesis or even an illustrative essay where you explain the subject to your audience.
Each survey you’ve conducted must get a special section in your paper where you explain your methods and describe your results.
Survey Research Example
We have got a few research survey examples in case you would need some real world cases to illustrate the guidelines and tips provided above. Below is a sample research case with population and the purposes of researchers defined.
Example of survey research design
The Newtown Youth Initiative will conduct a qualitative survey to develop a program to mitigate alcohol consumption by adolescent citizens of Newtown.
Previously, cultural anthropology research was performed for studying mental constructs to understand young people's expectations from alcohol and their views on specific cultural values. Based on its results, a survey was designed to measure expectancies, cultural orientation among the adolescent population. A secure web page has been developed to conduct this survey and ensure anonymity of respondents. The Newtown Youth Initiative will partner with schools to share the link to this page with students and engage them to participate.
Statistical analysis of differences in expectancies and cultural orientation between drinkers and non-drinkers will be performed using the data from this survey.
Survey Research: Key Takeaways
Today, we have explored the research survey notion and reviewed the main features of this research activity and its usage in the social sciences topics. Important techniques and tips have been reviewed. A step by step guide for conducting such studies has also been provided.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Survey Research
1. What is a market research survey?
A market research survey can help a company understand several aspects of their target market. It typically involves picking focus groups of customers and asking them questions in order to learn about demand for specific products or services and understand whether it grows. Such feedback would be crucial for a company’s development. It can help it to plan its further strategic steps.
2. How does survey research differ from experimental research methods?
The main difference between experiment and survey research is that the latter means field research, while experiments are typically performed in laboratory conditions. When conducting surveys, researchers don’t have full control on the process and should adapt to the specific traits of their target groups in order to obtain answers from them. Besides, results of a study might be harder to quantify and turn into statistical values.
4. What is the difference between survey research and descriptive research?
The purpose of descriptive studies is to explain what the subject is and which features it has. Survey research may include descriptive information but is not limited by that. Typically it goes beyond descriptive statistics and includes qualitative research or advanced statistical methods used to draw inferences, find dependencies or build trends. On the other hand, descriptive methods don’t necessarily include questioning respondents, obtaining information from other sources.
3. What is good sample size for a survey?
It always depends on a specific case and researcher’s goals. However, there are some general guidelines and best practices for this activity. Good maximum sample size is usually around 10% of the population, as long as this does not exceed 1000 people. In any case, you should be mindful of your time and budget limitations when planning your actions. In case you’ve got a team to help you, it might be possible to process more data.