Survey Research: Defintion, Examples and Methods

Survey Research is a quantitative research method used for collecting data from a set of panel or respondents. Learn everything about survey research definition, methods and examples.

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Survey Research Definition

Survey Research is defined as the process of conducting research using surveys that are sent to survey respondents. The data collected from surveys is then statistically analyzed to draw meaningful research conclusions.

In the 21st century, every organization’s eager to understand what their customers think about their products or services and make better business decisions. Research can be conducted in multiple ways but surveys are proven to be one of the most effective and trustworthy research methods. An online survey is classified as a method for extracting information about a significant business matter from an individual or a group of individuals and consists of structured survey questions that motivate the participants to respond.

A creditable survey research can give these businesses access to a colossal information bank. Organizations in media, other businesses, and even governments rely on survey research to obtain accurate data.

The traditional definition of survey research is a quantitative method for collection of information from a pool of respondents by asking multiple survey questions. This research type includes recruitment of individuals, collection, and analysis of data. It’s useful for researchers who aim at communicating new features or trends to their respondents.

Generally, it’s the primary step towards obtaining quick information about mainstream topics and conducting more rigorous and detailed quantitative research methods like surveys/polls or qualitative research methods like focus groups/on-call interviews can follow. There are many situations where this research can be conducted using a blend of both, qualitative and quantitative strategies.

Survey Research Methods

Survey research methods can be derived on the basis of two critical factors: Survey research tool and time involved for conducting research.

There are three main survey research methods, divided based on the medium of conducting survey research:

  1. Online/ Email-Online survey research is one of the most popular survey research methods in this day and age. The cost involved in online survey research is extremely minimal and the responses gathered are highly accurate but the only drawback of this survey research method is that the response rates are lower compared to the other mediums.
  2. Phone-Survey research conducted over phone can be useful in collecting data from a larger section of the target population but there are chances that the money invested in phone surveys will be higher than other mediums and also that the time required will be higher.
  3. Face-to-face- In situations where there is a complicated problem to solve, face-to-face survey research can be conducted. The response rate of this method is the highest but it can be extremely expensive.

Further, on the basis of the time taken, survey research can be classified into two methods:

  • Longitudinal Survey Research: Longitudinal survey research involves conducting survey research over a continuum of time, which may be spread across years and decades. The data collected using this survey research method from one time period to another, is qualitative or quantitative in nature. Respondent behavior, preferences, attitudes are observed constantly over time to analyze reasons for change in behavior or preferences. For example, if a researcher intends to learn about eating habits of teenages, he/she will follow a sample of teenages over a considerable period of time to ensure that the collected information is reliable.

    Longitudinal survey research is often followed by cross-sectional survey research.

  • Cross-sectional Survey Research: Cross-sectional survey research is conducted to collect insights from a target audience at a particular time interval. This survey research method is implemented in various sectors such as retail, education, healthcare, SME businesses etc. Cross-sectional survey research can either be descriptive or analytical in nature. This survey research method is quick and helps researchers collected information in a brief time span. Researchers rely on cross-sectional survey research method in situations where descriptive analysis of a subject is required.

Survey research also be bifurcated according to the sampling methods used to form samples for research: Probability and Non-probability sampling. Every individual of a population should be considered equally to be a part of the survey research sample. Probability sampling is a sampling method in which the elements are chosen on the basis of a probability theory. The are various probability research methods such as simple random sampling, systematic sampling, cluster sampling, stratified random sampling etc. Non-probability sampling is a sampling method where the researcher’s knowledge and experience is considered to form samples. The various non-probability sampling techniques are convenience sampling, snowball sampling, consecutive sampling, judgemental sampling and quota sampling.

Process of implementing survey research methods:

  1. Decide survey questions: Brainstorm and put together effective survey questions which are grammatically and logically appropriate. This can be done by understanding the objective and expected outcomes of the survey. There are many surveys where details of responses are not as important as gaining insights about what customers prefer from the provided options.

    In such situations, a researcher can include multiple choice questions or closed-ended questions. Whereas, if details about certain questions are to be obtained, researchers can include open-ended questions.

    Ideally, the surveys should include a clever balance of open-ended and closed-ended questions. Use survey questions like Likert Scale, Semantic Scale, Net Promoter Score question etc. to avoid fence-sitting.

  2. Finalize a target audience: Send out relevant surveys as per the target audience and filter out irrelevant questions as per the requirement. The survey research will be extremely effective in case a sample is decided from the target population. This way, results can be according to the desired market and be generalized to the entire population.
  3. Send out surveys via decided mediums: Distribute the surveys to the target audience and patiently wait for the feedback and comments- this is the most important step of the survey research. The survey needs to be scheduled keeping in mind the nature of the target audience and the regions they belong to.

    Surveys can be conducted via email, embedded in website, shared via social media etc. to gain maximum responses.

  4. Analyze survey results: Analyze the feedback in real-time and identify patterns in the responses which might lead to a much-needed breakthrough for your organization. GAP, TURF, Conjoint analysis, Cross tabulation and many such survey feedback analysis methods can be used to spot and shed light on respondent behavior. The results can be then used to implement corrective measures to improve customer/employee satisfaction.

Reasons to Conduct Survey Research

The most crucial and integral reason for conducting market research using surveys is that you can collect answers regarding definite, significant questions. These questions can be asked in multiple formats as per the target audience and the intent of the survey. Before designing a survey, every organization must figure out the objective of carrying this out so that the survey can be structured, planned and executed to perfection.

Questions that need to be on your mind while designing a survey are:

  1. The primary aim of conducting the survey.
  2. How do you plan to utilize the collected survey data.
  3. The type of decisions you plan to take on the basis of the above-mentioned points.

There are 3 very important reasons why an organization must conduct survey research.

  1. Understand respondent behavior to get solutions to your queries: If you’ve carefully curated a survey, the respondents will provide insights about what they like about your organization as well as suggestions for improvement. To motivate them to respond, you must be very vocal about how secure their responses will be as well as how will you utilize the answers. This will push them to be 100% honest about their feedback, opinions, and comments. Online surveys or mobile surveys have proved their privacy and due to this more and more respondents feel free to put forth their feedback through these mediums.

  2. Present a medium for discussion: A survey can be the perfect platform for respondents to provide criticism or applause for an organization. Important topics like product quality or quality of customer service etc. can be put on the table for discussion. A way you can do it is by including open-ended questions where the respondents can write their thoughts. This will make it easy for you to get correlate your survey to what you intend to do with your product or service.

  3. Strategy for never-ending improvements: An organization can establish the attributes of the target audience from the pilot phase of a survey research. The criticism and feedback received from this survey can be put to make improvements in the product/services. Once the improvements are successfully made, another survey can be sent out to measure the change in feedback keeping the pilot phase as the benchmark. By doing this activity, the organization can keep track of what was effectively improved and what still needs improvement.

Survey Research Scales

There are four main scales for measurement of variables:

  • Nominal Scale:

    In nominal scale, numbers are associated with variables for mere naming or labeling and the numbers usually have no other relevance. It is the most basic of the four levels of measurement.

  • Ordinal Scale:

    Ordinal scale has an innate order within the variables along with labels. It establishes the rank between the variables of a scale but not the difference value between the variables.

  • Interval Scale:

    Interval scale is a step ahead in comparison to the other two scales. Along with establishing a rank and name of variables, the difference between two variables is also made known using this scale. The only drawback is that there is no fixed start point of the scale, i.e., the true zero value is absent.

  • Ratio Scale:

    Ratio scale is the most advanced level of measurement scale which has variables that are labeled in order and also have a calculated difference between variables. In addition to what interval scale orders, this scale has a fixed starting point, i.e. the true zero value is present.

Benefits of Survey Research

In case survey research is used for all the right purposes and is implemented in the right manner, marketers can benefit by gaining useful, trustworthy data that can be used to better the ROI of the organization.

Other benefits of survey research are-

  1. Minimum investment:

    Mobile surveys and online surveys have a very small finance invested per respondent. Even with the gifts and other incentives provided to the people who participate in survey, online surveys are extremely economical in comparison to the paper-based surveys.

  2. Versatile sources for response collection:

    Surveys can be conducted via various mediums like online and mobile surveys. The online surveys are further classified into qualitative mediums like focus groups and interviews and quantitative mediums like customer-centric surveys. Due to the offline survey response collection option, the surveys can be conducted in remote areas that have limited internet connectivity. This can make data collection and analysis more convenient and extensive.

  3. Reliable for respondents:

    Surveys are extremely secure as the respondent details and responses are kept safeguarded. This anonymity makes respondents answer the survey questions candidly and with absolute honesty. An organization seeking to receive explicit responses for their survey research must mention that the survey will be confidential.

Survey Research Design

Survey research design is implemented in cases where there is limited cost involved and there is a need to access details easily. This method is often used by small and large organizations to understand and analyze new trends, market demands and opinions. Collecting information through a tactfully designed survey research can be much more effective and productive than a casually conducted survey.

There are five stages of survey research design:

  1. Decide an aim for research: There can be multiple reasons for a researcher to conduct a survey but they need to decide an aim for research - this is the primary stage of survey research as it can mould the entire path of a survey and the impact of its results.
  2. Filter the sample from target population: Whom to target? - is an important question that a researcher should answer and keep in mind while conducting research. The precision of results can be driven by who the members of a sample are and how useful are their opinions. The quality of respondents in a sample is very important for the results received for research and not the quantity. If a researcher seeks to understand whether a product feature will work well with their target market, he/she can conduct survey research with a group of market experts for that product or technology.
  3. Zero-in on a survey method: There are many qualitative and quantitative research methods which can be discussed and decided. Focus groups, online interviews, surveys, polls, questionnaire etc. can be carried out with the pre-decided sample of individuals.
  4. Design the questionnaire: What will the content of the questionnaire be? - A researcher is required to answer this question to be able to design it effectively. What will the content of the cover letter be? Or What are the survey questions of this questionnaire?

    Understand the target market thoroughly to create a questionnaire that targets a sample to gain insights about a survey research topic.

  5. Send out surveys and Analyze results: Once the researcher decides on which questions to include in a survey, they can send it across to the selected sample. Answers obtained for this survey can be analyzed to make product-related or marketing-related decisions.

Survey Examples: 10 Tips To Design The Perfect Research Survey

Picking the right survey design can be the key to gaining the information you need to make crucial decisions for all your research. It is very important to choose the right topic, choose the right questions types and pick a corresponding design. If this is your first time creating a survey, it can seem like an intimidating task. But with QuestionPro, each step of the process is made simple and easy.

Below are the Survey Examples: 10 Tips To Design The Perfect Research Survey

  1. Set your SMART Goals: Before conducting any market research, or creating a particular plan – it is very important to set your SMART Goals. What is that you want to achieve with the survey? How will you measure it in a timely manner and what are the results you are expecting?
  2. Choose the Right Questions: Designing a survey can be a tricky task, asking the right questions may help you to get the answers you are looking for and ease the task of analyzing. So, always choose those specific questions – relevant to your research.
  3. Begin your survey with a Generalized Question: It was always preferred to start your survey with a “General Question” so that that right from the beginning you get to know whether your product is even used or not. That also provides a good base and intro for your survey.
  4. Enhance your Survey: Choose the best, most relevant 15-20 questions. Frame each question as a different question type, based on the type of answer you would like to gather from each. Create a survey using different types of question types such as multiple choice, rating scale, open-ended etc. Look at more survey examples and 4 measurement scales every researcher should remember.
  5. Prepare Yes/No Questions: You may also want to use yes/no questions to separate people or branch into groups of those who “have purchased” and those who “have not yet purchased” your products or services. Once separated, different questions can be asked of each of these groups.
  6. TEST – On all electronic devices: It becomes very easy to distribute your surveys if it can be answered on different electronic devices like mobile, iPad etc. Once you have created your survey. It’s the time to TEST. You can also make any corrections if needed at this stage.
  7. Distribute your Survey: Once your survey is ready. It’s time to share and distribute to the right audience. You can share handouts, share it via email, social media and other industry related offline/online communities.
  8. Collect and Analyze responses: After distributing your survey, it is time to gather all responses. Make sure you store your results in a particular document or an excel sheet, with all the necessary categories mentioned, so that you don’t lose your data. Remember, this is the most crucial stage. Your responses should be gathered based on various categories such as:

    This is because, as a researcher, you must know where your responses are coming from. It will help you to analyze, predict decisions and help write the summary report.

  9. Prepare your Summary report: Now, is the time to share your analysis. At this stage, you should mention all the responses gathered from a survey in a fixed format. Also, the reader/customer must get clarity about your goal, which is what were you trying to gain from the survey. Questions such as – whether the product or a service is been used/preferred or not. Do respondents prefer some other product to another? Any recommendations?
  10. Finalize your overall plan: Now is the time to prepare your final an action plan, based on the goal set, responses gathered and the conclusion conducted. Here you need to fix the process of your final plan and execute.