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What is a Survey – Definition, Methods, Characteristics

Survey: Definition

A Survey is defined is a research method used for collecting data from a pre-defined group of respondents to gain information and insights on various topics of interest. Surveys have a variety of purposes and can be carried out in many ways depending on the methodology chosen and the objectives to be achieved.

The data is usually obtained through the use of standardized procedures whose purpose is to ensure that each respondent is able to answer the questions at a level playing field to avoid biased opinions that could influence the outcome of the research or study. A survey involves asking people for information through a questionnaire, which can be distributed on paper, although with the arrival of new technologies it is more common to distribute them using digital media such as social networks, email, QR codes or URLs.

Characteristics of a Survey

The need to observe or research facts about a situation leads us to conduct a survey. As we mentioned at the beginning, a survey is a method of gathering information.

So what do you need to conduct a survey?

First, a sample, also referred to as audience, is needed which should consist of a series of survey respondent’s data with required demographic characteristics, who can relevantly answer your survey questions and provide the best insights. Better the quality of your survey sample, better will be your response quality and better your insights.

Surveys come in many different forms and have a variety of purposes, but they have common underlying characteristics. The basic characteristics of a survey are:

Survey Questions: Questionnaire for your survey

Effective survey questions are the cornerstone for the success of any survey and subsequently, any research study. Whether it an email survey, SMS survey, web intercept survey or a mobile app survey, the single common denominator that determines how effectively you are able to collect accurate and complete survey responses is your survey questions and their types.

Multiple choice questions are the most common type of survey questions, in which, some of the popular question types are: dichotomous question, semantic differential scale question, rank order questions, rating scale questions and open ended questions .

To conduct a survey, it is important to plan the type of survey to ensure you get the optimum number of responses required for your survey. It could be a mix of interviews and survey questions or a questionnaire. Interviews could be telephone interviews, face-to-face interviews, online interviews and questionnaires can be mall surveys or web surveys. The underlying difference between a survey and a questionnaire is that a questionnaire may or may not be delivered in the form of a survey, but a survey always consists of a questionnaire.

Sample and Sample Determination

A sample is a selection of respondents from a population in such a manner that the sample represents the total population as closely as possible. Once you have determined your sample, the total number of individuals in that particular sample is the sample size.

Selecting a sample size depends on the end objective of your research study. It should consist of a series of survey respondents data with required demographic characteristics, who can relevantly answer your survey questions and provide the best insights. If the quality of the sample for survey is good, the response quality and insights are better.

Survey Methods

Survey methodology studies the in-depth sampling of individual units from a population and administering data collection techniques on that sample. It includes instruments or processes that ask different question types to a predefined sample, to conduct data-collection and increase the survey response rate.

The two distinctive member types are in a survey methodology are, professionals in the field that focus on empirical survey errors and others that work to design surveys and reduce them. it is therefore both a scientific field and a profession. The primary tasks of a survey methodologist while administering a survey is to identify and create samples, validate test questions, select the mode to administer questions and validate methods for data collection, statistical analysis and data reporting.

Survey Methods based on Design

Surveys can be administered by the time they take to complete, the two types are:

  • Cross-sectional studies: Cross-sectional study is defined as an observational research type that analyzes data of variables collected at one given point of time across a sample population. population or a pre-defined subset. This study type is also known as cross-sectional analysis, transverse study or prevalence study. The data gathered in a cross-sectional study is from people who are similar in all variables except the one variable which is under study. This variable remains constant throughout the cross-sectional study. This is unlike longitudinal study, where variables in the study can change over the course of research.
  • Longitudinal studies: Longitudinal study is an observational study that employs continuous or repeated measures to follow particular individuals over prolonged period of time often years or decades. Longitudinal study collects data that is either qualitative or quantitative in nature. In longitudinal study a survey creator is not interfering with survey respondents. Survey respondents are observed over a period of time ranging from months to even decades to observe any changes in them or their attitude. For example, a researcher wants to find out which disease affects young boys (in the age group of 10-15) then the researcher will observe the individuals over that period to collect meaningful data.

Survey Methods based on Distribution

There are different ways of survey distribution. Some of the most commonly used methods are:

  • Email: Sending out an email is the easiest way of conducting a survey. The respondents are targeted and there is higher chance of response due to the the respondents already knowing about your brand.
  • Buy respondents: Buying a sample helps achieve a lot of the response criteria because the people who are being asked to respond have signed up to do so and the qualifying criteria for the research study is met.
  • Embed survey in website: Embedding a survey in a website ensures that the number of responses is very high. This can be done while the person enters the website or is exiting it. A non intrusive method of collecting feedback is important to achieve a higher number of responses. The responses received are also honest due to the high brand recall value and the responses are quick to collect and analyze due to them being in a digital format.
  • Post to social network: Posting on social networks is another effective way of collecting responses. The survey can be posted as a link and people that follow the brand can take a survey. This method is used when there is no upper cap on the number of survey responses required and is the easiest and fastest way of eliciting responses.
  • QR code: QR codes store the URL for the survey. You can print/publish this code in magazines, on signs, business cards, or on just about any object/medium. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR Code to open the survey in the phone’s browser.
  • SMS: Using SMS surveys are another quick way to collect feedback. This method can be used in the case of quick responses and when the survey is simple, straightforward and not too long. This method is used to increase the open and response rate of collecting feedback.

Surveys can be distributed using one, some or a mix of the above methods depending on the basis of the research objective and the resources being used for any particular survey. Many factors play a part in the mode of distribution of surveys like cost, research study type, flexibility of questions, time to collect responses, statistical analysis to be run on data and willingness of the respondent to take part in the survey.

You can conduct a telephone or email survey and then make a selection of respondents for a face-to-face interview. Survey data are sometimes also obtained through questionnaires filled out by respondents in groups, for example, a school class or a group of shoppers in a shopping center.

You can also classify the surveys by their content, being able to use open or closed questions to know, for example, opinions, attitudes, details of a fact, habits, experiences for a later classification and analysis of the obtained results.

In the same way you can use some sample survey question; ask for the classification of different alternatives. You can do a very short survey, with some questions that can take five minutes or less to answer, or it can be a very long survey that requires one hour or more of the time of the interviewee. For example, Those who need to know in depth behavior or attitudes of people, prefer to use, in addition to surveys a panel or an online community.

(Courtesy: QuestionPro)

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