Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|
Surveys

Have you ever found yourself walking down the street when suddenly you're approached by someone with a clipboard, asking if you have a spare few minutes to answer some questions? If so, chances are that this person was asking you to fill out a survey.

Surveys, clipboard, StudySmarterFig. 1 - A survey is a list of carefully formulated questions that often give multiple-choice answers.

If this doesn't sound like a familiar experience, then perhaps you've been asked to rate a company, restaurant, or service provider based on your experiences with them. Or, you might have been sent an email asking you to use a sliding scale to provide feedback on different parts of their service.

These are examples of a survey too.

This article is all about surveys. What are surveys? What types of surveys are there? How do we identify a survey? And why are they important in research?

These are all questions that you'll have the answer to by the end of this article!

Surveys Definition

To start things off, let's look at a definition of survey. The word "survey" can mean several things, so it actually has more than one definition.

The first definition uses survey as a verb:

To examine and carefully record the details of something. (E.g., The police officer said she was going to survey the evidence before submitting it to her Seargeant.)

The word survey can also be a noun:

The process of ensuring a large-scale project or building is executed correctly and to high standards. (E.g., The contractors completed a survey of the site before handing it over to the developers.)

The definition of survey that we're concerned with in this article is:

A list of questions aimed at obtaining specific information from a targeted demographic or participant group. Surveys are a common tool in research.

The manager of a restaurant wants to know how satisfied the restaurant's patrons are with the service they receive from the staff. The manager decides to give each table a brief survey when they pay for their meals. He can then use the data gathered from the survey answers to ascertain the level of satisfaction felt by the customers, and whether there are any sticking points or areas for improvement.

Surveys, feedback survey, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Restaurants, hotels, and other service providers often use surveys for feedback.

Surveys in Research

Surveys are a key research method and can be used to research many different kinds of topics.

One of the main things to note regarding surveys in research is that they fall under the umbrella of quantitative research methods. What does this mean?

Quantitative research is concerned with gathering data that is countable or measurable in some way. The data collected from quantitative research is often statistical or numerical in nature, although this is not always the case.

In the next section, we'll look at how surveys fit into this category of research by highlighting some of the key features of surveys.

Surveys Characteristics

There are a few different research methods that can seem similar to surveys. These include questionnaires and polls, for example. So, how can we tell them apart? We'll begin by looking at the key characteristics of a survey, and then we'll cover some definitions and characteristics of the other research methods.

Survey Methods

A survey method is a technique used to gather data during the research process. Although we're most concerned with surveys in this explanation, there are a couple of other survey methods to be aware of, such as polls and questionnaires. By the end of this section, you should have a decent grasp of what each method entails and how to recognize them.

Surveys

These are some of the key characteristics of surveys:

  • Measurable. The data obtained from surveys must be measurable or quantifiable in some way. Often this is achieved by providing participants with a range of predetermined answers. (E.g., "On a scale of 1-10, how friendly was your server?")

  • Carefully considered survey question design. Before writing a survey, you need to think about exactly what information you hope to gain. This means writing carefully thought-out questions that are specific and clear so that participants don't get confused, or you don't end up with lots of data that doesn't answer your research brief.

  • Multiple-choice questions. Surveys often make use of multiple-choice questions, as again, this is a good way of obtaining measurable data. Using open-ended questions would introduce too many variables that the researcher could not control, making collating and analyzing the data much more complicated.

A variable is an aspect, feature, or characteristic of something that is likely to change. In research, variables are the elements that can be investigated. For example, if you were researching the effect of wind on the growth of a sunflower, the wind would be a variable.

  • Specific and targeted sampling. When using a survey for research, there is no point in handing out a survey to every person you meet (unless you're looking for opinions from the general population). You should have a clear idea of a target participant group in mind and should only use your survey within this group. This will ensure you are given more relevant and useful data.

A target group or target participant group is the group of people you wish to gain data from. Target groups are usually demographic-related, such as men between the ages of 40 and 50, senior students in Manhattan high schools, or female head chefs. Each of these examples is a target group.

Polls

Now that we know what to look for as far as surveys are concerned, let's learn a bit more about polls which are another type of survey method. Here's a quick definition for reference:

A poll is when a person is given a choice between several options, and they must then vote for or select their preferred option.

The most common type of poll that you'll be familiar with is a voting poll for an election. You would definitely have heard the phrase, "Candidate X has gone up (Y number) points in the election polls." Polls are not always for serious decisions such as elections or referendums but can be used for lots of things. They are essentially a very quick way to gather data about a group's opinions.

The key characteristics of a poll are:

  • Limited choices. Most polls (regardless of the topic) will only give participants a few options to choose from. For example, if a group of friends is trying to decide what movie to see over the weekend, they might create a poll with the options for everyone to vote on. They might include three or four options to keep things simple.

  • Minimal detail. Whereas surveys can ask more detailed questions about topics, and the participant can decide to what extent they agree, polls are more concerned with getting participants to make a choice rather than quantifying their opinion on something. For instance, in elections, a poll will simply ask the voter to choose a candidate, whereas a survey might ask the voter how much they agree with each candidate's policies.

  • Only one question. Perhaps one of the most distinguishing features of a poll is that they only ask one question. A survey is a list of several questions, whereas a poll is usually just one.

Surveys, Election, StudySmarterFig. 3 - Government elections are a common type of poll.

Questionnaires

With surveys and polls now under our belts, it's time to take a brief look at one last type of survey method: the questionnaire.

A questionnaire is a set of questions used for research purposes, comprising closed or open-ended questions, or both. Questionnaires are used to gather data from the participants about their opinions or experiences regarding the research topic.

The key characteristics of a questionnaire are:

  • Instructions or background information. Many questionnaires will have instructions or a short explanation at the beginning to ensure the participants know how to fill it in and what sort of information is required. This information might also include some details about the purpose of the research.

  • Specific and relevant. Questionnaires should be carefully thought out to ensure that each question devised asks clear and specific questions about the research topic. Questions on questionnaires should all be related to this topic, and there should be no random ones.

  • Combination of closed and open-ended questions. One of the key features of questionnaires is that they can feature both closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. This is a key distinction between questionnaires and polls and surveys, as polls and surveys tend to ask only closed-ended questions. Questionnaires allow for more detailed responses due to the open-ended questions.

Surveys Examples

Now that we know how to distinguish a survey from a questionnaire or a poll, we can look at the different types of surveys. There are three key types of surveys that we're going to focus on here:

Exploratory Surveys

  • Commonly used in the marketing and business sectors

  • Concerned with obtaining ideas, opinions, and visions rather than factual, statistical data

  • Often used for identifying areas for improvement within businesses

An example of an exploratory survey is when a hotel sends you an email after your stay asking you to fill in a survey for feedback. A question included in a survey like this might go something like:

"On a scale of 1 to 10, how friendly were the reception staff you encountered during your stay?"

This question is looking for information about the guest's opinions of the service they received. This information could be used to identify areas where service quality needs improvement.

Descriptive Surveys

  • More carefully planned than exploratory surveys and more structured

  • Data obtained from descriptive surveys can be easily collated and applied to the participant population

  • Concerned with ascertaining a specified group's opinions or views on a particular topic

An example of a descriptive survey could be a teacher giving their students some questions to determine their preferred learning style. The teacher knows what kind of information they are looking for and formulates the survey questions to elicit specific details. An example of a descriptive survey question could be something like:

"Given the choice between watching a documentary, reading a textbook, or carrying out a group presentation, which option is the most desirable?"

The responses to this question could then be collated, and the teacher would be able to see what proportion of the class favors each learning style.

Causal Surveys

  • Designed to enable gathered data to be translated into cause and effect correlations

  • Used to better understand the impact different variables have on a research topic

  • Often used by businesses to improve engagement and sales

An example of a causal survey could be a cereal brand deciding whether or not to change its packaging by seeking consumer feedback. An example causal survey question could be:

"Look at the two packaging options below. Would you be more inclined to purchase the red box or the blue box?"

The answers to causal survey questions give the researcher information about people's motivations and the factors influencing their choices. In this example, the researcher would be able to see how color and design impact consumer decisions.

Surveys - Key Takeaways

  • Surveys are a method of quantitative research.
  • Surveys are a list of questions that are often multiple choice or have limited possible answers.
  • The purpose of a survey is to obtain information from a specific participant group or demographic.
  • There are three key types of surveys: exploratory, descriptive, and causal.
  • Surveys are similar to polls and questionnaires, but there are key distinctions between the three research methods.

Frequently Asked Questions about Surveys

Surveys are generally examples of quantitative research. Quantitative research is concerned with gathering countable or measurable data and statistics. 

Surveys are mainly used to find out measurable or countable data relating to demography and social research. Surveys generally consist of very simply questions with a limited choice of possible responses, so that the responses collected are easy to collate.

Survey research involves creating a survey which is a list of clear and simple questions that can usually be answered in simple and concise ways using predetermined answers. Survey research is concerned with trying to obtain specific kinds of data from a particular participant group.

An example of survey research would be a hotel sending an email to their patrons with a link to a survey asking about the quality of service they experienced during their stay at the hotel. The survey could contain questions about the staff, the amenties provided by the hotel, and the food and service offered by the hotel restaurant. The feedback received by the hotel could then be used to identify any areas for improvement within the hotel's service provision.

Some of the key characteristics of survey research include: 


  • measurable and clear objectives
  • well thought-out survey question design
  • specific and targeted sampling
  • effective data collation, presentation, and reporting

Final Surveys Quiz

Question

Briefly describe what quantitative research is.

Show answer

Answer

Quantitative research is concerned with gathering data that is countable or measurable in some way. The data collected from quantitative research is often statistical or numerical in nature, although this is not always the case. 

Show question

Question

Which of these is NOT a description of the word "survey"?

Show answer

Answer

A set of questions used for research purposes, made up of a combination of closed and open-ended questions

Show question

Question

How can a survey be designed to be measurable?

Show answer

Answer

Often this is achieved by providing participants with a range of predetermined answers.

Show question

Question

True or false, polls and questionnaires are the same thing as a survey but with a different name.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Why are open-ended questions not typically used in surveys?

Show answer

Answer

 Using open-ended questions would introduce too many variables that the researcher could not control, and would therefore make collating and analyzing the data much more complicated. 

Show question

Question

Which of these words describes the kind of data that quantitative research gathers?

Show answer

Answer

Both A and B

Show question

Question

True or false, when conducting a survey, it is ok to deviate from the target participant group or demographic.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Why is it important to stick to a specified participant group during a survey?

Show answer

Answer

This will ensure the collected data is more relevant, helpful, and useful.

Show question

Question

What are the three key types of survey?

Show answer

Answer

Exploratory

Descriptive

Causal

Show question

Question

Which of these reflects a reason that causal surveys are used?

Show answer

Answer

to better understand the impact different variables have on a research topic

Show question

Question

What is a benefit to asking open-ended questions as well as closed-ended questions?

Show answer

Answer

Open-ended questions provide more detailed and specific information than closed-ended questions and can therefore add more value to the data. Answers to closed-ended questions are easier to collate and analyze. 

Show question

Question

Why might a questionnaire contain instructions?

Show answer

Answer

To ensure that the participant knows how to respond to questions and what kind of information is expected of them. 

Show question

Question

Which of these is an example of a poll?

Show answer

Answer

A family of five deciding what kind of restaurant to go to by voting on two given options

Show question

Question

Which type of research method is most likely to use a sliding scale or rating system for answering questions?

Show answer

Answer

Survey

Show question

Question

How can a research ensure that they get the right kinds of responses from survey participants?

Show answer

Answer

By making sure the survey questions are carefully planned and written in a simple, clear, and unambiguous way. This will help to avoid confusion and enable the participants to make informed decisions 

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Surveys quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.