What is a Survey: Definition, Types and Methods

Published by QuestionPro
"To create something exceptional your mind must be relentlessly focused on the smallest details" - Giorgio Armani

Like the clothing line of Giorgio Armani, to make a survey is also an art as much you would want to think it to be rocket science. Its is very easy to send surveys to the respondents but it is equally a difficult task to design those surveys in a manner to get responses that add to the valuable data.

Designing an effective survey gives a substantial meaning to your research. Nonetheless asking good survey questions are the foundation of any survey research, followed by effective methods of designing, distributing and analyzing survey response data.

Survey: Definition

What is a Survey

Surveys are a research method used for collecting data from people to gain information on various topics. 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.

For example, a sample of eligible voters is obtained before an election, in order to understand what the voters think about the candidates and predict what the results might be on Election Day.

Similarly, in case you want to launch a product, you can have a sample of people who qualify to help you decide the features of the product that appeal to your potential customers or clients. The World today, more than ever we need to know what people want, not only the consumers of a brand or service, but about the general behavior of the human being, their preferences, needs. This need for information leads companies or organizations to place their trust and work with surveys.

Surveys come in many different forms and have a wide variety of purposes, but they have certain characteristics in common. In a survey, the sample is not selected at random or is made up only of people or volunteers to participate. Each individual of the population has a known probability of being selected. In this way, the results can be projected reliably.

What sample size do you need? That will depend on the reliability you're looking for, which, in turn, will depend on how the results are used.

Consequently, there is no rule for the size of the sample that is used in a survey. However, some researchers find that a moderate sample size is sufficient for most needs. For example, well-known national surveys generally use samples of around 1500 people to reflect national attitudes and opinions, achieving accurate estimates, as they may reflect different characteristics of the total population within a very small margin of error.

While it is true that the most popular surveys are known through the various media, most surveys are not known to the general public. The reason is that, unlike public opinion polls, most surveys have an administrative or commercial purpose, for example, to know what people think about the launch of a new car, which are the favorite programs of viewers, how people spend money on health care services, habits and use of public transport, in short; Surveys also provide an important source of knowledge on social, economic, psychological or political issues. Themes are infinite in order to carry out a survey.

On the other hand, once collected, the survey data can be analyzed and reanalyzed in many different ways.

Types of Surveys

Surveys can be classified in different ways, either by their size and type of sample or by the method used for the collection of data: via telephone, mail, paper surveys, online surveys, personal interviews, in short. Previously, postal mail surveys were popular, but now virtually nobody answers and sends them back, so the response rate is too low.

The telephone interview is a widely used method to collect some types of data. For example, A face-to-face survey, either at home or at the respondent's office, is much more expensive than a telephone survey.

Some surveys combine several methodologies. You can do a telephone 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 scales; 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.

What is an online survey?

An online survey is set of structured questions, that the respondent completes over the internet, generally through filling out a form. An online survey is an easier way to reach out to the respondents as it is less time consuming than the traditional way of gathering information through one to one interaction and also less expensive.

Online surveys can differ in length and format used. The data is collected and stored in a database which is later evaluated by an expert in the field.

As an incentive for respondents to fill out online surveys, businesses offer them with rewards like gift cards, reward points that they can redeem for goods or services later, free airline miles, discount at gas stations etc.

Online surveys with rewards is a win-win situation for both, businesses and respondents. The businesses or organizations get valuable data from a controlled environment, for the market research and for the respondents it’s a humble gesture from businesses to participate in the survey and spend their valuable time.

What are the advantages of an online survey?

Online surveys are one of the less time consuming methods to reach out to your target audiences, but that’s not the only advantage of online survey, let us understand what are the other advantages of using online survey:

  1. Accuracy: In online surveys, usually the margin of error is reduced, as the respondents register their responses by easy selection buttons. Tradition methods require human interference and according to a study human interference increase the margin of error by 10%.
  2. Easy and quick to analyze: Since all the responses are registered online, it is extremely easy and quick to analyze the data in real time. It is also quick to draw inferences and share the result.
  3. Ease of participation: In this new age technology oriented universe, most people on this planet have access to the internet. Respondents prefer receiving the survey over the email. Ease of participation greatly increases as the respondents can choose a suitable time and place, according to their convenience to register their responses.
  4. Great branding exercise: While designing the survey online, organizations or businesses have this opportunity to design their survey to align to their brand. Using logos and similar brand language (color and fonts) in the survey, gives an advantage to the businesses as respondents are able to connect better with the brand.
  5. Respondents can be honest and flexible at the same time: According to a study researchers have found an increased participation by respondents when deployed with online surveys rather than answering lengthy questions. By designing surveys that ask relevant questions, respondents are honest with their answers and can skip the questions or respondent to a more neutral option in the survey, increasing their flexibility to respond.

How is a Survey created and designed?

As we explained before, a survey usually has its beginnings when a person, company or organization faces a need for information and there is no existing data that is sufficient. Take into account the following recommendations:

  1. Establish the objectives of your research. These objectives must be clear and specific.
  2. Develop a methodology. Take into account the way you will get your sample to reduce the margin of error, decide how you will carry out the collection of information, design your questions and perform a test before applying the survey.
  3. Anticipate the lack of answers and the time needed to perform your data analysis.
  4. The design of your survey should be according to the information needs that you require to be measured.
  5. Avoid biases using clear and well-defined concepts in each question.
  6. Avoid long surveys, they can tire the respondent and make him leave the survey or he responds hastily and with errors.
  7. Within the survey design, you also find factors such as, if it is an online or field survey, a survey for a mobile application and the type of questions that will be asked, for example, multiple-choice questions, open-ended questions, scale-of-values, graphic classification, etc., the jumps of questions, the check boxes, in order.
  8. Pay attention to way you address the questions, both the order of the question’s options and the way they are written.

Apart from the above mentioned points, it is important to remember that when you ask survey questions based on past events and experience, you will have to rely and trust on the memory of the respondents. This is a single “assumed” variable in any survey that seeks to understand user behaviour through past experiences and events.

Who conducts the Surveys?

The person who conducts a survey is usually called an interviewer or a pollster, whether they make a phone call, appear at the door of your house or at the mall to do their work. Those who attend a panel, or online panel, can also be called administrator.

Those who are responsible for performing this task, preferably should be open people, patients, who have the ability to approach strangers to engage in a conversation, and carry out the survey according to the instructions received.

These people are not those who bear the full responsibility of conducting a survey, there are also those who are dedicated to design it, determine the sample, write the questions, supervise the collection and analysis of the data and write the corresponding reports of the results obtained.

On the other hand, if you are conducting an online survey, all you have to do is create, send and automatically analyse the surveys from respondents. A market research analyst is typically the person who creates and send out these online surveys to be answered by respondents.

What treatment is given to the information obtained?

When you conduct a survey, you must have access to its analytics. While manual surveys based on pen and paper or excel sheets require additional man-power to be analysed through experience data analysts, it becomes much simpler when using an online survey platform. Here, analysis is done automatically because survey creation and distribution is done digitally as well.

Coming to the privacy aspect of data treatment, this might be a matter of concern for respondents who decide to participate in a survey. However, the privacy of the information collected is guaranteed or their authorization is requested to make use of it for research purposes. Do not forget that it is also a question of ethics, to give the best use to the data obtained and use them only for what is required.

How to make a survey with QuestionPro

It is very simple and quick to make a survey the questionpro way. Just follow these steps are you are ready to deploy the survey:

  1. Login to your questionpro account (if you don’t already have one, you can get a FREE Account today.) Login to QuestionPro
  2. Once you have logged in to your account from the top scroll bar, choose “Survey” from the drop down box in the top left corner.
    Once you select surveys, you can either start making your survey from scratch or choose from already existing templates. Create a Survey
  3. If you decide to make the survey from scratch, the first step is to name your survey. Create a survey from scratch
  4. Once you name the survey, you are now ready to add relevant questions.Add a question
  5. You can choose from a wide range of basic to advance question types from the selection bar on the left hand side of the page. Select basic type
  6. For example if you choose “Select one” from the type of questions you will be able to see the question type being displayed on the screen. You can edit the question that you want to ask the respondents.
    When you edit the options, you can bulk edit the answers accordingly. Single select question
  7. Once you have added the questions to your survey you are now ready to deploy the survey to the respondents.
    You can edit the body of the email text and make it more audience specific before you deploy the survey. Send your survey