Survey Method

The essence of survey method can be explained as “questioning individuals on a topic or topics and then describing their responses”[1]. 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:

  1. Describing certain aspects or characteristics of population and/or
  2. 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 [2]:

Survey method Description
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)[3] in the following manner:

Method Purpose Advantages Disadvantages
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

  1. Surveys can be conducted faster and cheaper compared to other methods of primary data collection such as observation and experiments
  2. Primary data gathered through surveys are relatively easy to analyse


Disadvantages of Survey Method

  1. In some cases, unwillingness or inability of respondents to provide information
  2. Human bias of respondents, i.e. respondents providing inaccurate information
  3. 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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Survey Method

[1] Jackson, S.L. (2011) “Research Methods and Statistics: A Critical Approach”,  4th edition, Cengage Learning, p.17

[2] Source: Jackson, S.L. (2011) “Research Methods and Statistics: A Critical Approach”,  4th edition, Cengage Learning

[3] Denscombe, M. (2010) “The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects” fourth edition, Butterworth-Heinemann