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Conducting a Survey

Conducting a Survey

Imagine visiting a new community and realizing a difference in their way of life from your previous community, and you want to understand why they live their lives in that particular way. To do this, you can design some questions to ask a sample of people from the community's population. From there, you can put together the perspectives, opinions, and ideas of the various respondents, analyze and scrutinize them, and then you can probably understand the basis or reason for their particular way of life.

This process of gathering information from a group of people and analyzing it to gain insight into a phenomenon or to make decisions is what we call a survey, and the processes you went through to get the answers to your questions is what is meant byconducting a survey

Definition of a Survey

What is a survey anyway?

A survey is a research method that gathers, examines, and analyzes information about the opinions, characteristics, and behaviors of a group of people towards a particular phenomenon, situation or topic of interest.

Surveys are conducted among predefined groups. This means that a particular survey is conducted on a particular group of people who have some characteristics in common.

The process of selecting and putting together groups of people for a survey is called sampling.

Suppose a politician/researcher/business wants to know the biggest needs of the people in a community. There are a couple of common ways they can do this.

  • They can observe the community, the way of life, and what the people have or don’t have, to come up with the answers.

  • They can interview some people to figure out the things they need the most in the community and why they need them.

Using these methods, the researcher can gather all the answers (data), analyze the answers, and be able to come up with what the community needs the most. This same thing is done by businesses to decide what their target market needs or expects the most to deliver and grow their business.

Another example is conducting a survey to get information about a group of health workers' perceptions about their health facility or to gather data on a group of citizens' perspectives or opinions on the performance of the current government. A survey can be used to examine the characteristics, opinions, and/or behaviors of people.

Importance of Conducting a Survey

Surveys are important because they allow you to collect honest feedback and information. It provides useful information that could be used to employ improvements and used to gain an understanding of the behavior, preferences and opinions of a group of people concerning a subject.

Surveys allow companies and product developers to gain insight into and access the interaction between people and their products. This will help them develop products and give satisfactory services. It will help them monitor the current trends and understand their target population's motivations and reasons why they take some actions. The surveys will help them know the performance of their product or service and help them make informed decisions.

Types of Survey Methods

The following are some examples of surveys that can be conducted.

  1. Demographic surveys: This type of survey is conducted to obtain some general information on the characteristics of the respondents. Information obtained from demographic surveys includes ethnicity, religion, employment status, education level, marital status, race, sexual orientation, health status, etc. Demographic surveys are useful in statistics, business, politics, and marketing.

  2. Customer satisfaction survey: This is conducted to test how content a group of customers or clients are concerning a product or service. Customer satisfaction surveys can be conducted and be useful in healthcare (known as patient satisfaction surveys), business, law, and marketing. Information obtained from customer satisfaction surveys includes the attitude of employees towards clients, satisfaction with infrastructure, satisfaction with explanations from employees towards problems, and satisfaction with the overall service provided.

  3. Market research survey: This is the technique used by businesses to understand the needs of their target market, their attitudes, beliefs, way of life, preferences, and purchase behavior. Market research is useful to personalize products to suit a particular client's needs and expectations.

Data for surveys can be collected with various techniques including standardized questionnaires and interviews. For more information on the various kinds of surveys, take a look at Conducting a Survey.

Advantages of a Survey

The following are some advantages of a survey.

  1. Surveys can easily be conducted on a large population and therefore have greater statistical power and can be easily generalized.

  2. Collecting data for surveys can be convenient since people can access the questionnaire online or require less effort by the researcher.

  3. Surveys are more likely to give precise results to a research question.

Disadvantages of a Survey

The following are some disadvantages of a survey.

  1. Respondents might give sentimental responses when assessing controversial or personal issues.

  2. The survey research method is not flexible, such that it cannot be changed from the very beginning of the research process until the very end.

Challenges in Conducting a Survey

The most common challenge in conducting surveys is problems with the research questions. The questions may be too confusing, too long, non-specific and ambiguous, while sometimes the answers may also be inadequate or lack space for clarifications. Other challenges in surveys may be demographic differences for different participants. Cost can often be an issue in conducting a survey, especially if the survey involves interviews.

Purpose of Conducting a Survey

The purpose of conducting surveys is to gain insight into a phenomenon, understand occurrences, test people’s knowledge on a topic, and answer research questions on a topic of interest. They are necessary for decision-making or understanding a phenomenon.

Surveys provide relevant information on people’s opinions, behaviors, and preferences for businesses to personalize their products to suit a certain market target. They can also help researchers to understand the thoughts, beliefs, opinions and feelings of people.

Steps in Conducting a Survey

To conduct a comprehensive survey, there are six steps to follow:

  1. Define your target audience/participants.

  2. Choose how to engage your participants.

  3. Structure the research questionnaire.

  4. Distribute your questionnaire and gather responses.

  5. Analyze your data.

  6. Write and present your results.

Let's look at each step in more detail.

Step 1: Define your target audience/participants.

Before you can conduct a good survey, you must first determine who you want to participate in your study and the population you want to survey.

The target population of a survey is the group of people you wish to gather information on.

As mentioned earlier, surveys can only be conducted on a group of people who have some common characteristics. Therefore, you must define your population and the problem you want to assess. The targeted population will help you structure your questions and decide which survey method is the best for your study. It is also important to know how many participants will be required for the study to make sense and be easily generalized or statistically relevant.

A target population for a survey could be the population of patients who attended a particular health facility to test how satisfied they were with the services provided.

In a survey like this, you can gather qualitative information on the following:

  1. Accessibility of facilities.
  2. Access to doctors and other health professionals.
  3. Quality of medical care.
  4. Financial aspects of services.
  5. Interpersonal and customer service skills by professionals.
  6. Duration of waiting periods and transparency of communication between professionals and patients.

Once you have a population you will need to decide how to contact them.

Step 2: Choose how you want to engage your participants

Decide whether it would be best to meet your participants through an online survey, one-on-one interaction/interviews, emails, or social media. This part of the survey process is dependent on your targeted population and your research question or topic of interest.

The choice of data collection avenue for a survey on visually impaired people might not be appropriate to be sent through emails since most of the population might not be able to access it, instead, you can meet them in one-on-one interviews to get the best response.

Next is the question stage.

Step 3: Structure the research questionnaire

This is the most important part of the survey process. At this point, the researcher has to determine which survey questions are the best to help get the kind of responses that will perfectly answer the research questions.

Survey questions may be open-ended questions, ordinal or nominal scale questions, interval scale questions, ratio scale questions, multiple choice questions, or a combination of any of these. Choosing a question style, as well as the questions, depends on the researcher's goals.

The following are some types of survey questions.

  • Open-ended questions are questions that create room for explanations and elaboration as opposed to closed-ended questions which require direct yes/no or true/false answers and have no room for explanations.

  • Ordinal scale questions require answers that have some intrinsic ordering, for instance, you can strongly agree, agree, be neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree with a statement, or you can have a "low income", "middle income", or "high income". Opposed to this are nominal scales which have no intrinsic ordering methods but just unique categories, Examples of nominal scales may include gender, sex, place of residence, etc.

  • Interval scales have no true zero point, as their zero values or points do not represent the absence of data. Examples include temperature at 0 degrees Celsius doesn't mean the absence of temperature. On the other hand, ratio scales have a true zero point and never fall below zero. For instance, the weight or height of an object can never fall below zero and therefore is a ratio scale.

Of course once you have questions you need to get them to people.

Step 4: Distribute your questionnaire and gather responses

At this point, make sure the survey questions are answered by the right population or target group. This can be done by explaining it perfectly on the header of the research questions on online platforms or social media or by verbally explaining it to participants in one-on-one interactions before they answer the questions.

Remember that the research results might be invalid if by any chance the survey gets answered by the wrong population.

You may include the wrong population group if you do not explain or indicate the minimum age, location, gender, education level, etc. of potential respondents to your survey questions.

After gathering all of the responses you can prepare to analyze them.

Step 5: Analyze your data

Data analysis is also one of the most important aspects of a survey. Here, you are to decide which data analysis method is the best for the survey data you’ve just collected. Choosing a data analysis method depends on whether the data you have acquired is quantitative or qualitative.

Quantitative data represents the form of data that is numerical and can be gathered through counts and measurements.

For more information on what quantitative data is and how it is used, see the article Quantitative Variables.

Qualitative data represents the forms of data that are descriptions, characteristics, explanations, perspectives, and opinions about something instead of numbers and counts.

For more information on qualitative data and its uses, see the article Qualitative Variables.

Each form of data has a unique way of analysis and this must be chosen carefully by the researcher for the study to make sense to potential readers and be able to answer the research questions.

There are four steps to analyzing survey data, these are:

  1. Data cleaning: This is similar to what is done after general elections to remove ballots that are improperly marked. In this process, the researcher or data analyst checks for any duplicates or inappropriate responses by a participant. This makes the data clean and ready for analysis.

  2. Data organization: At this stage, the researcher groups similar or the same answers by a set of participants together to make the data easier for analysis.

  3. Data Visualization: Data visualization means trying to represent the survey responses in charts, graphs, images, maps, tables, etc. These techniques provide the opportunity to understand trends, outliers, and patterns in the data.

  4. Data interpretation: This involves studying the data and making conclusions based on the trends and patterns in the data. This is the stage where research questions are answered and solutions are made to a problem. Data interpretation helps us make meaning out of the data. The method of data interpretation also depends on the type of research and the goals of the researcher.

Step 6: Write and present your results

This is the stage where the researcher summarizes and explains all findings from the survey so that anyone reading can make meaning out of the work. At this stage, the researcher must choose the right communication method to present the study and must ensure that anyone who reads their research can easily understand all the aspects without unnecessary difficulties. A researcher should also explain if the research goals were achieved, the insights from the study, the importance of the study for the future, and any other way the data can be used.

Examples of Conducting a Survey

Let's see some examples of surveys.

A survey for a product evaluation is to be conducted. The first thing the company did was structure the survey questions and distribute them on the streets. Is this a proper way of conducting a survey?

Solution:

NO. A survey should not be conducted in this way. Before structuring the questions and distributing the survey, the company should have first defined the participants of the survey. The product may be used by people of a certain age or used only by males or females. This should be taken into consideration first.

The next thing is to choose an appropriate method to engage with the defined participants. It may be more productive to make an online survey than to make a paper survey and distribute it on the streets.

After choosing the survey method, you can now structure your questions and distribute the survey. The last thing will be to analyze the data collected and make your conclusions.

Let's see another example.

Which of the following describes a survey asking about your marital status, age, income and living area:

  1. Online survey.
  2. Market survey.
  3. Demographic survey.
  4. Customer satisfaction survey.

Solution:

The correct option is C. In a demographic survey, questions about your age, income and living area maybe asked. These questions are relevant to the information the survey is seeking.

Information obtained from demographic surveys includes ethnicity, religion, employment status, education level, marital status, race, sexual orientation, health status, etc. Demographic surveys are useful in statistics, business, politics, and marketing.

Conducting a Survey - Key takeaways

  • A survey is a research method that gathers, examines, and analyzes information about the opinions, characteristics, and behaviors of a group of people towards a particular phenomenon, situation or topic of interest.
  • Examples of survey topics include demographic surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, and market research surveys.
  • The purpose of conducting surveys is to gain insight into a phenomenon, understand occurrences, test people’s knowledge on a topic, and answer research questions on a topic of interest.
  • The following are steps you must follow to conduct a comprehensive survey.
    1. Define your target participants.
    2. Choose how to engage your participants.
    3. Structure the research questionnaire.
    4. Distribute your questionnaire and gather responses.
    5. Analyze your data.
    6. Write and present your results.

Frequently Asked Questions about Conducting a Survey

An interview is the most popular way of conducting a survey.

To conduct a survey research, you should follow the following steps.


  1. Define your target participants.
  2. Choose how to engage your participants.
  3. Structure the research questionnaire.
  4. Distribute your questionnaire and gather responses.
  5. Analyze your data.
  6. Write and present your results.

The purpose of conducting surveys is to gain insight into a phenomenon, understand occurrences, test people’s knowledge on a topic, and answer research questions on a topic of interest.

Surveys are important because they allow you to collect honest feedback and information. It provides useful information that could be used to employ improvements and used to gain an understanding of the behavior, preferences and opinions of a group of people concerning a subject.

Survey is a method of data collection.

Final Conducting a Survey Quiz

Question

List some areas where surveys can be useful.


Show answer

Answer

Marketing, politics, business, statistics, healthcare. 

Show question

Question

What is a survey?


Show answer

Answer

A survey is a research method that gathers, examines, and analyzes information about the opinions, characteristics, and behaviors of a group of people towards a particular phenomenon, situation or topic of interest

Show question

Question

In this process, the researcher or data analyst checks for any duplicates or inappropriate response by a participant


Show answer

Answer

Data cleaning

Show question

Question

Why are surveys conducted?


Show answer

Answer

The purpose of conducting surveys is to gain insight into a phenomenon, understand occurrences, test people’s knowledge on a topic, and answer research questions on a topic of interest

Show question

Question

List the types of survey methods.


Show answer

Answer

  1. Demographic survey.
  2. Customer satisfaction survey.
  3. Market research survey.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is the most preferred survey method among researchers?


Show answer

Answer

Interview.

Show question

Question

List some of the advantages of a survey.

Show answer

Answer

  1. Surveys can easily be conducted on a large population and therefore have greater statistical power and can be easily generalized.

  2. Collecting data for surveys can be convenient since people can access the questionnaire online or require less effort by the researcher. 

  3. Surveys are more likely to give precise results to a research question.

Show question

Question

List some data visualization techniques.


Show answer

Answer

  1. Charts.
  2. Graphs.
  3. Images.
  4. Maps.
  5. Tables.

Show question

Question

List some of the disadvantages of a survey


Show answer

Answer

  1. Respondents might give sentimental responses when assessing controversial or personal issues.

  2. The survey research method is not flexible, such that it cannot be changed from the very beginning of the research process until the very end.

Show question

Question

The last step in conducting a comprehensive survey is to analyze data. True/False


Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What is the last step in conducting a comprehensive survey?


Show answer

Answer

Write and present results

Show question

Question

What are some ways surveys can be conducted?


Show answer

Answer

  1. Interviews.
  2. Focus groups.
  3. Online surveys.
  4. Email surveys.
  5. Paper/Document survey.

Show question

Question

Which of the following describes a survey that seeks information about race, age, education level, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Show answer

Answer

Demographic survey.

Show question

Question

What is the target population of a survey?

Show answer

Answer

The target population of a survey is the group of people you wish to gather information on.

Show question

Question

What are the challenges faced in conducting a survey?

Show answer

Answer

The most common challenge in conducting surveys is problems with the research questions. The questions may be too confusing, too long, non-specific and ambiguous, while sometimes the answers may also be inadequate or lack space for clarifications. Other challenges in surveys may be demographic differences for different participants.

Show question

Question

Why is conducting a survey important?

Show answer

Answer

Surveys are important because they allow you to collect honest feedback and information. It provides useful information that could be used to employ improvements and used to gain an understanding of the behavior, preferences and opinions of a group of people concerning a subject.

Show question

Question

What is sampling for a survey?

Show answer

Answer

Sampling for a survey is the process of selecting and putting together groups of people for a survey.

Show question

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