types of survey

What is a Survey?  

Technically, a survey is a method of gathering and compiling information from a group of people, more often known as sample, with an intention of gaining knowledge by organizations, businesses or institutions. This information or opinion collected from sample, is more often generalization of what a large population thinks.

Surveys provide important or critical information in the form of meaningful data which is further used by businesses or organization to make informed and sound decisions. There are different types There is much variety when it comes to surveys. This is both in terms of with what frequency a survey is administered and in what ways a survey is deployed to its respondents.

Learn More: How to determine sample size

Types of Survey

Now that we know what a survey is, let us understand the different types of surveys. Surveys can be classified in different ways, as mentioned earlier, depending upon the frequency at which they are administered and ways in which they are deployed. There are other types of survey like random sample survey (to understand public opinion or attitude) and self-selected type of surveys. You will read more about types of a survey in the following paragraphs. 

Types of survey based on deployment methods:

1. Online surveys: One of the most popular types of survey is online survey. With technology advancing many folds with each passing day, online survey is becoming more popular. This survey consists of survey questions that can be easily deployed to the respondents online via email or they can simply access the survey if they have an internet connection. These surveys are easy to design and simple to deploy. Respondents are given ample time and space to respondent to answer these surveys and so researchers can expect unbiased responses.  They are less expensive as compared to traditional surveys and data can be collected and analyzed quickly.

2. Paper surveys: As the name suggests, this survey uses the traditional paper and pencil approach. Many would believe that paper surveys are a thing of past. However, they are quite handy when it comes to field research and data collection. These surveys can go where computers, laptops or other handheld devices cannot go.

There is a flipside to it too, this survey type is the most expensive method of data collection. It includes deploying a large number of human resources along with time and money.

3. Telephonic Surveys: These surveys are conducted usually over telephones. Respondents are asked questions related to the research topic by researcher. These surveys are time-consuming and sometimes non-conclusive, as the success of such surveys dependents on how many people answer the phone and would want to invest their time in answering questions over the telephone.

4. One-to-One interviews: One-to-one interview helps researchers gather information or data directly from a respondent. It’s a qualitative research method and depends on the knowledge and experience of a researcher to frame and ask relevant questions one after the other to collect meaningful insights from the interview. These interviews can last from 30 minutes up to a few hours.

Learn more: Quantitative Research

Types of survey based on the frequency at which they are administered:

1. Cross-sectional surveys: Cross-sectional surveys are those surveys that are administered to a small sample from a larger population within a small time frame. This type of survey offers a researcher a quick summary of what respondents think at that given time. These surveys are short and quick to answer and can measure opinion in one particular situation.

For example, consider hypothetically, a study related to breast cancer was conducted in America and a sample was chosen to obtain cross-sectional data. This data indicated that breast cancer was most prevalent in women of African-American origin. This data was obtained at one point in time. Now, if the researcher wants to dwell deeper in research, he/she can deploy longitudinal survey.

Learn more: Cross-sectional Study

2. Longitudinal surveys: Longitudinal surveys are those surveys that help researchers to make an observation and collect data over an extended period of time. There are three main types of longitudinal survey: trend surveys, panel surveys, cohort surveys.

Trend surveys are deployed by researchers to understand the shift or transformation in the thought process of respondents over a period of time. These surveys are administered to understand how people’s inclination change with time.

Another longitudinal survey type is panel survey . As the name suggests unlike trend survey, these surveys are administered to the same set or group of people over the years. Panel surveys are expensive in nature and researchers to try to stick to their panel to gather unbiased opinions.

The third type of longitudinal survey is cohort survey. In this type of survey, people are categorized on meeting certain similar criteria and characteristics. It is not necessary that the same people will form a group, however, people forming a group should have certain similarities.

Learn more: Longitudinal Study

3. Retrospective survey: Retrospective survey is a type of survey in which respondents are asked to report events from the past. By deploying this kind of survey researchers can gather data based on past experiences and beliefs of people. This way they can save the cost and time required, unlike longitudinal survey.

Learn more: Cross-sectional vs Longitudinal Study

Random Sample – Public Opinion/Attitude Type of Survey:

When an agency needs reliable, projectable data about the attitudes and opinions of its citizens or a select group of its citizens, it is essential to conduct a valid, random sample survey.  Telephone interview surveys are considerably more common than in-person interviews because they are far less expensive to conduct and tend to be widely accepted as an information-gathering tool.

There is a margin of error, based upon the size of the sample (generally, a minimum sample of 200 is the industry standard for reliable data about any population segment).  Overall, random sample telephone interview surveys provide reasonably accurate information about the population from which the sample is drawn.

While there is a statistical margin of error (the sample of 200 provides an error range of +/- 7% with a 95% confidence), this type of survey is the most democratic process there is, and the most reliable, for learning about the opinions of an entire community.

A random sample survey is not appropriate for educating people about an issue or trying to assess what people will do at some future point (i.e., “Will you vote for this bond issue?”).  But, the results do provide a reasonably accurate portrait of the person’s opinions in the present moment (i.e., a person’s feelings or attitudes about the issues relating to the need for approving a bond). Questions asked in the past and present tense provides a reasonable degree of accuracy about a person’s usage and habit patterns.

Learn more: Research Design

Self-Selected Type of Survey – Newspapers, mail, Internet, written questionnaires:

When an agency has a political need to create a survey process that allows anyone who is interested in responding, it can do a self-selected process.  A written survey can be distributed in public locations, such as the City Hall or Library, emailed directly, e-mailed or published in the city newsletter or the local newspaper.

When reporting data from a self-selected survey, it is important, to begin with the understanding and the language, “Of those who chose to respond…..”  Most often, those who volunteer to respond to a self-selected survey have a strong opinion (frequently negative) about the issue being discussed.

A self-selected survey, however, can be an excellent public relations tool and a good way of giving information to the public.  But, extreme caution must be exercised in drawing any conclusion about what the public, in general, thinks based on the results of a survey when the respondents are volunteers.

Learn more: Research Reports

Types of Survey with Examples

It is important for a researcher to have a proper medium to conduct research and collect meaningful information to make informed decisions. Also, it is very important to have a platform to create and deploy these various types of survey.

QuestionPro is a platform that helps not only to create but also to deploy different types of survey. We have more than 300+ types of survey template and survey examples including:

  • Customer survey templates: Customers are key to success for any business or organization. It is essential for organizations or businesses to understand their customers, what their needs and preferences are. Use customer survey template to understand your customers better and work on any feedback provided by them to grow and flourish your business.
  • Market research & Marketing survey templates: Use marketing survey templates for market research as a way to determine what consumers think about products or services of a brand, whether products are fairly priced, gather feedback from consumers, measure their level of awareness and more.
  • Community survey templates: Community survey templates can be administered to members of associations or foundations to get feedback regarding the various activities conducted within the association to help understand from the members regarding what kind of programs should be conducted, feedback of previously held events and more.
  • Human Resource survey templates:  Human resource survey template can be used by businesses and organization for employee evaluation, employee satisfaction, employee engagement and more. These surveys can be sent to employees and their feedback can be collected and implemented on.
  • Industrial survey templates: Industrial survey template to used to collect feedback or information from consumers of various industry like event management, hotel industry, fast food industry, transportation just to name a few. Through these survey template, the industry player can understand what good they are already doing and what needs to be improved from a consumer’s point of view.
  • Academic survey templates: If you are an educator, school administrator, an academician or in similar profession, academic survey templates are one of the best ways to understand how students and their parents respond to the efforts taken by your education institution and if they have any feedback on course evaluation, curriculum planning, training sessions etc.

One can choose from these existing survey templates or create a survey of their own, all this just at the click of a button.

Learn more: Social Research