Surveys

Surveys
A survey is “the collection of data from a given population for the purpose of analysis of a particular issue” (Salant & Dilman, 1994). The data received as a result of the survey may be used for various purposes: for marketing issues, for research purposes, for production and improvement purposes etc. Data for survey may be collected from the whole population (e.g. employees of a company) or from a population sample (e.g. randomly selected people in the street).

The latter is called sample survey.

There are different types of surveys, the main of them being cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys (Rea & Parker, 2005). For example, a survey questioning people on how they feel about changed logo of the company is a cross-sectional one; it might be used for identifying which logo is better associated with the brand. Yearly survey among university system administrators on which data is usually searched in Internet by students is an example of trend study; it might be used to study students’ preferences and efficiency of Internet use. Panel studies include surveys collected from the same people after certain periods of time, e.g. surveys of “secret customers” testing the quality of service in different shops or banks. Such surveys may be used for improving the quality of service.

For each survey, it is necessary to guarantee confidentiality for the participants, their personal data and answers; also, it is necessary to provide the participant with full information about the survey and how its results will be used, so that he or she could make an informed decision. To ensure that the responses are kept confidential it is recommended to process personal data and answers separately, and then link them statistically and through database.

It is important to ensure that the survey is presenting unbiased information. First of all, random sampling should be used, if it is possible. Secondly, the questions have to be designed in order to avoid ambiguity, imposed answers or hurting the personality of the respondent. Also, the real purpose of the essay should not be clear to the respondents so that they would not give “desired” answers (Sapsford, 2007).

Planning and conducting the survey and having enough time for this is also quite important, especially for longitudinal studies such as trend, cohort and panel studies. For cross-sectional surveys time issue is also important since the respondents need to have enough time for answering, and time for processing and analyzing the data should also be planned.

References
Rea, Louis M. & Parker, Richard Allen. (2005). Designing and conducting survey research: a comprehensive guide. Jossey-Bass.
Salant, Priscilla & Dilman, Don A. (1994). How to conduct your own survey. Wiley.
Sapsford, Roger. (2007). Survey research. Sage.

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