The essence of survey method can be explained as “questioning individuals on a topic or topics and then describing their responses”. In business studies survey method of primary data collection is used in order to test concepts, reflect attitude of people, establish the level of customer satisfaction, conduct segmentation research and a set of other purposes. Survey method can be used in both, quantitative, as well as, qualitative studies.
Survey method pursues two main purposes:
- Describing certain aspects or characteristics of population and/or
- Testing hypotheses about nature of relationships within a population.
Survey method can be broadly divided into three categories: mail survey, telephone survey and personal interview. The descriptions of each of these methods are briefly explained on the following table :
|Mail survey||A written survey that is self-administered|
|Telephone survey||A survey conducted by telephone in which the questions are read to the respondents|
|Personal interview||A face-to-face interview of the respondent|
Major survey methods and their descriptions
Alternatively, from the viewpoint of practicality, the most popular variations of surveys include questionnaires, interviews and documentation review. The main advantages and disadvantages associated with these primary data collection methods are explained by Denscombe (2010) in the following manner:
|Questionnaires||Conducted in order to gather large size of information in a short period of time||Members of the sample group can remain anonymous|
Considerably cheaper than most of the other primary data collection methods
Possibility of generating large amount of data
|Difficulties of ensuring greater depth for the research|
The problem of the ‘first choice selection’
|Interviews||Conducted in order to reflect emotions and experiences, and explore issues with a greater focus||The possibility to direct the process of data collection|
The possibility to collect the specific type of information required
|Great amount of time required in order to arrange and conduct interviews and primary data collection.|
Additional costs might be incurred associated with arranging and conducting interviews, travelling etc.
Potential for interviewee bias
|Documentation review||Conducted in order to study issues that have developed over a specific period of time||Possibility to retrieve comprehensive information||Challenges associated with access to documentation Inflexibility of the research process|
Advantages and disadvantages of survey data collection methods
Advantages of Survey Method
- Surveys can be conducted faster and cheaper compared to other methods of primary data collection such as observation and experiments
- Primary data gathered through surveys are relatively easy to analyse
Disadvantages of Survey Method
- In some cases, unwillingness or inability of respondents to provide information
- Human bias of respondents, i.e. respondents providing inaccurate information
- Differences in understanding: it is difficult to formulate questions in such a way that it will mean exactly same thing to each respondent
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 Jackson, S.L. (2011) “Research Methods and Statistics: A Critical Approach”, 4th edition, Cengage Learning, p.17
 Source: Jackson, S.L. (2011) “Research Methods and Statistics: A Critical Approach”, 4th edition, Cengage Learning
 Denscombe, M. (2010) “The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects” fourth edition, Butterworth-Heinemann