Conducting Survey Research

Conducting Surveys

Once you have constructed a questionnaire, you'll need to make a plan that outlines how and to whom you will administer it. There are a number of options available in order to find a relevant sample group amongst your survey population. In addition, there are various considerations involved with administering the survey itself.

Administering a Survey

This section attempts to answer the question: "How do I go about getting my questionnaire answered?"

For all types of surveys, some basic practicalities need to be considered before the surveying begins. For instance, you need to find the most convenient time to carry out the data collection (this becomes particularly important in interview surveying and group-administered surveys), how long the data collection is likely to take. Finally, you need to make practical arrangements for administering the survey. Pretesting your survey will help you determine the time it takes to administer, process, and analyze your survey, and will also help you clear out some of the bugs.

Administering Written Surveys

Written surveys can be handled in several different ways. A research worker can deliver the questionnaires to the homes of the sample respondents, explain the study, and then pick the questionnaires up on a later date (or, alternately, ask the respondent to mail the survey back when completed). Another option is mailing questionnaires directly to homes and having researchers pick up and check the questionnaires for completeness in person. This method has proven to have higher response rates than straightforward mail surveys, although it tends to take more time and money to administer.

It is important to put yourself into the role of respondent when deciding how to administer your survey. Most of us have received and thrown away a mail survey, and so it may be useful to think back to the reasons you had for not filling it out and returning it. Here are some ideas for boosting your response rate:

Administering Oral Surveys

Face-To-Face Surveys

Oftentimes conducting oral surveys requires a staff of interviewers; to control this variable as much as possible, the presentation and preparation of the interviewer is an important consideration.

When actually administering the survey, you need to make decisions about how much of the participants' responses need to be recorded, how much the interviewer will need to "probe" for responses, and how much the interviewer will need to account for context (what is the respondent's age, race, gender, reaction to the study, etc.) If you are administering a close-ended question survey, these may not be considerations. On the other hand, when recording more open-ended responses, the researcher needs to decide beforehand on each of these factors:

Phone Surveys

Phone surveys certainly involve all of the preparedness of the face-to-face surveys, but encounter new problems because of their reputation. It is much easier to hang-up on a phone surveyor than it is to slam the door in someone's face, and so the sheer number of calls needed to complete a survey can be baffling. Computer innovation has tempered this problem a bit by allowing more for quick and random number dialing and the ability for interviewers to type answers programs that automatically set up the data for analysis. Systems like CATI (Computer-assisted survey interview) have made phone surveys a more cost and time effective method, and therefore a popular one, although respondents are getting more and more reluctant to answer phone surveys because of the increase in telemarketing.

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