A Survey is a list of questions asked to individuals with the aim of collecting information. The purpose of a survey is to gain an understanding of thoughts, feelings and opinions of a group. If the size of the group is too large, this exercise may be too expensive or time consuming. So, for the sake of feasibility, we select a representative sample of individuals and ask questions to this sample to describe certain characteristics of the group and/or to test hypotheses about the nature of relationships within the group.
Quick details: Surveys
Preparation: Questionnaire, Respondent recruitment
Deliverables: Responses, Data charts
More about Surveys and types of Surveys
In business context, survey is one of the primary methods of data collection. It is used to test concepts, gain insight on behavior and attitude of people towards a business, brand, product or service, gauge the level of customer satisfaction, conduct segmentation research and for other purposes.
Surveys are conducted either face-to-face, through email, or sometimes over the telephone. The descriptions of each of these methods are briefly explained in the following table with their purpose, advantages and disadvantages.
|Face-to-face surveys are conducted to gain an understanding of the emotions and experiences of the respondents. Face-to-face surveys can also be made adaptive i.e. each surveyee can be asked a different question based on their previous response to understand and explore certain issues with a greater depth.
|Conducted in order to gather large size of information from a significantly large set of respondents in a short period of time.
|Telephone surveys are conducted to gain an understanding of the emotions and experiences of the respondents. These kind of surveys can be a good choice when a face-to-face survey isn’t an option.
Advantages of Surveys
1. High Representativeness
With the right group, one that is representative of the larger population, surveys can provide a high level of insight on the behavior, attitude, preference, etc. of the general population. Also, because of the huge number of people who answer surveys i.e. the large size of the sample, the data gathered is a great descriptor of the population.
2. Low Cost
In case of online and telephone surveys, survey participants do not charge a fee. Sometimes, for a scientific study or some other business related survey, the participants are paid a small fee but overall the cost of surveys stays low as compared to other research methods such as focus groups and interviews.
3. Easy Data Gathering
Surveys can be sent to participants via email or fax, or can be administered through the Internet. Nowadays, the online survey method has been the most popular mode of conducting surveys. Apart from being convenient, the surveys can reach a wide and diverse audience quickly and easily.
4. High Objectivity
Any study is considered more meaningful if the researcher can stay objective during the research. Surveys prove to be helpful in such cases. As the researcher’s own biases are eliminated, Surveys are also considered highly reliable.
5. Uniform Scale of Measurement
As questions in the survey are standard and if carefully designed, they are a uniform scale on which every participant’s responses are evaluated.
Disadvantages of Surveys
1. Strict Design
As the survey questions cannot be altered during the course of the study, any gaps in the survey will be prevalent throughout the research.
2. Possibility of Inauthentic Responses
The participants may not always be completely authentic while responding to surveys.
3. Non-empathetic Method
Unlike other methods for data gathering, Survey researchers can stay fairly detached to the participants. Though considered positive for scientific studies, it may be a disadvantage in cases where emotional or sensitive data is being gather from the participants.
Think Design's recommendation
Use surveys as a method if you are seeking reliable, factual (as user said it) data in a reasonably quick time and affordable budget. More so, use surveys when you are going to draw relationships among questions, user types or categories. Also, if you are seeking some amount of quantitative data to have statistical basis for inferences.
Do not use surveys if what you are seeking is a deeper understanding of a situation or a future scenario. There are better methods for these objectives.