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• USES AND CHARACTERISTICS OF SURVEYS • Used in research by social scientists such as political scientists, psychologists and sociologists for a variety of reasons • Used to meet the more pragmatic needs of political candidates, public health officials, and advertising and marketing directors • Generally involve sampling • Characterized by their use of a set of predetermined questions for all respondents • Oral or written responses to questions constitute the principal data obtained in surveys • Properly conducted surveys are an excellent basis for describing people’s attitudes and opinions • Surveys do not provide a good vehicle for exploratory studies

• STRENGTHS/ADVANTAGES • Very cost effective compared to face-to-face interviews since the researcher is able to contact large numbers of people quickly, easily and efficiently • Surveys are relatively easy and quick to create, code, and analyze since entry and tabulation of data can be done easily with computer software • Surveys are easy to standardize since every respondent is asked the same question in the same way • A reliable method of research since the researcher can be sure that everyone in the sample answers the exact same questions • Surveys can reduce bias since there are no verbal or visual cues to influence the answers of the respondent • Surveys are less intrusive compared to telephone or face-to-face surveys/interviews since the respondents can answer the survey in his/her time without being interrupted by the research instrument • Surveys can also be used to explore potentially embarrassing topics (such as sexual and criminal matters) more easily than other methods since it can preserve anonymity and it can be completed privately

• LIMITATIONS/DISADVANTAGES • The format may make it difficult for researches to study complex issues and topics • It may not be possible to explain any points in the questions that might be misinterpreted by the respondents • When open-ended questions are used, it can generate large amounts of data that may take a long time to process and analyze • Respondents may answer superficially to the survey, especially if they take a long time to complete • Some respondents may not be willing to answer the survey since they might not wish to reveal information if they think they will not benefit from answering or if they think they will be penalized for doing so • Peer pressure of embarrassment or wanting to be socially desirable may cause respondents to fabricate the truth or impress the researcher by writing false answers that may cause the survey to become invalid and unreliable


Basic terms • Population • Sampling Frame

Threats • Selection bias • Response bias

Nonprobability Sampling • Accidental Sampling • Purposive Sampling

Probability Sampling • Simple Random Sampling • Stratified Random Sampling • Cluster Sampling


Which is the best method? No perfect method stands for ALL circumstances. Researchers must use the method which best fits the research problem, considering the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Mail Surveys

Personal Interviews

Telephone Interviews

Internet Surveys

Mixed Mode Surveys




Survey method utilized in line of inhibitive travel costs and other disadvantages of personal interviews

Provides access to dangerous neighborhoods and respondents available only during evening hours

Advantages • Time and cost efficient • High response rate • High flexibility • Access to more communities

Disadvantages • Threat of selection bias and interviewer bias • “Faceless voice” may affect responses • Limited time


Survey method rapidly gaining popularity, with Internet users as default target population

Advantages • Provides high guarantee for anonymity • More statistically consistent results compared to mail surveys • Flexible • Time and cost efficient • Software simplifies compilation and analysis of data

Disadvantages • May not be representative • Poor response rates for longer surveys

Table from:


Cross-sectional Design • Collect data at a single point in time • Participants have to be almost similar to one another

Successive Independent Samples Design • Series of cross-section surveys • Describe changes over time in the attitudes or behaviors of members of the population

Longitudinal Design • Collect data over a period of time • Limitation- possible drop out of participants due to length of study • Three types: trend, cohort and panel studies


Correlational Research Assess the covariation among naturally occurring variables Establish relationship between two variables Limitation – cannot predict causal relationship and cannot rule out possible third variables Common type – two or more sets of responses from survey are correlated


Psych118 presentation about surveys

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