Using Different Types of Surveys for Data Collection in Research

Surveying means contacting for getting certain information. Survey method is a method of collecting data for research purpose.  There are personal surveys, mail surveys, telephone surveys and internet surveys. Survey may be sample survey or census survey.

Survey method of data collection in research

The features of each of surveys are given below:

Personal Survey

Personal survey involves meeting personally every number who has to be surveyed. The features of this method of data collection are as follows.

  • The number of respondents that can be contacted is not very high, as the time taken to contact the respondent, and the time spent on the interview itself is very high in relative terms.
  • When the time available for research in large the personal method is used.
  • The cost involved is highest in the personal method since it requires field interviewers as well as their conveyance/ traveling costs. Also, if a person is not available he may have to be contacted again and again.
  • The accuracy obtained in very high, as the right persons are contacted and if there is difficulty in their understanding certain questions the interviewer can take care of it. Also, if the interviewer feels that the respondent is not furnishing the correct facts, by observing he can make his own interpretations, record the responses for better results. The responses rate is high compared to the mail survey, making the accuracy of the results better.
  • When a large geographical area is to be covered and the time and cost constraints are high, personal survey method is not resorted to. However, if it is an ongoing syndicated research or census surveys, such in time and costs have to be necessarily borne for the sake of better coverage and accuracy.
  • This method would require the agency to have a good infrastructure of data collection, in terms of field force, its supervision and control.
  • When the literacy levels are low and the respondent would find it difficult to fill up the questionnaire on his own, this method is the best alternative available.
  • A very length questionnaire under a structured survey is difficult to administer personally, with inaccuracy creeping in on account of the monotonous nature and fatigue effect on the part of the interviewer. At times, in certain socio-economic studies when this is unavoidable, the number of interviewers is made larger and certain incentives may be given to the respondents to extend their co-operation in filling up the set of questions, asked.
  • The availability of skilled interviewers can reduce the interviewer bias on account of recording incorrect responses of the fatigue effects.
  • When the questions require spontaneous answers, this is the best method, However, if the questions are of a personal nature or require too much thought on the part of the respondent he may feel embarrassed or make up the answers without thinking. However, in case of non-structured and non-disguised techniques like the in-depth interviews such probing is called for.
  • The interviewer may have the tendency to contact some other person; similar to the respondent to complete his quota of respondents. This affects the accuracy of results thus necessitating a tight control on field work.
  • A complete list of the respondents would be required to draw a representative sample. However, the interviewer has at times to use his own   discretion   and   access respondents with similar demography characteristic in case of non-availability.

Mail Survey Method

Mail survey involves contacting the respondents through post. A questionnaire is dispatched to elicit views. The features of this method are as follows:

  • A large number of respondents can be contacted using the available database of addresses.
  • When the time available is again fairly large, and respondents are very distantly located this method is preferred.
  • The cost involved is not very high and it is mainly just the cost of mailing which is often very cheap.
  • The accuracy obtained is not very high since the response rate is not very high, not more than 20%. Also, the right respondent may not have filled up the questionnaire. Again, the chances of interpreting the questions incorrectly by the respondents are high, resulting in wrong responses which may be inconsistent with the responses in the rest of the questionnaire.
  • The mail method most suited to contact people scattered over large geographical areas when the time available for contact is fairly enough An updated database of respondent addresses would go a long way in obtaining a good response rate. With the availability of fax, internet and courier facilities, time can be saved.
  • The size of filed force required is almost negligible and the agency could function with few data entry operators to take care of the data collected.
  • The mail method can be used to contact only people who can read and write and definitely has limitations for social research at the slum level or rural levels.
  • This is the method best suited when the questionnaire is very length. The respondents does not have to fill it up in one stroke. He also has time to think about the questions and answer them. Errors on account of fatigue or monotonous nature of the dialogue with the interviewer are not likely to creep in.
  • The interviewer bias is not of any consequence in this case.
  • The questions which require spontaneous answers would not lend themselves suitable to the mail survey. However, personal questions or those involving certain through processes are best suited to the mail questionnaire method.
  • The questionnaires are out of the control of the agency. The person who fills up the questionnaire may not be desired respondents but someone in the same office or household.
  • The mailing would not solve the purpose if the addresses of the respondents have not been updated. The existence of a mailing list is essential.

Telephone Survey Method

In telephone survey voice contact is directly established with the respondents. The features of this method are as follows:

  • The number of respondents who can be contacted is fairly large, as the time to contact them is less than that for a personal interview.
  • The cost involved in moderately high as skilled telephone operators need to be employed. Also if the respondent is not available he needs to be contacted more than once.
  • The accuracy obtained is fairly high in this case as the response rate is comparable to the personally administered questions. In certain cases, it might be higher also. The skill of the telephone interviewer makes the respondent at ease and comfortable to answer and the questions. Also, certain questions, which need explanations can also be posed through the telephone.
  • The telephone method can be used for respondents having the ability to communicate and express themselves. As such, only a certain class of respondents lend themselves useful to such methods.
  • The length of the questionnaire has to be extremely short in this case. The issue which is addressed through the questions has to be focused one so that, less time is required to be spent over the telephone to explain the purpose of the research etc. The telephone method would thus have a limited use.
  • The skill of the operator/interviewer largely is responsible for the size of bias in recording the respondents incorrectly.
  • The questions requiring spontaneous answers or of a personal nature can be administered over the telephone but those which require thinking would be difficult to take care of using this method.

Internet Survey Method

This is the world of connectivity through internet. Internet survey involves using internet for survey. The superiority of this survey is that it has no limitations of geography. The questionnaire may be put through a websites, forums, blogs, wikis,mail-groups etc. The survey may be advertised through internet or other mode inviting the attention of the prospective respondents. They may send their responses again over the internet. This is the most modern type of survey and has great potentials. It is not prohibitively expensive.

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