Ever heard of surveys ? This methodology stands out as one of the most used in academic works, such as dissertation and thesis. Understand how survey research works and see step-by-step how to apply it in your project.
Research methodology is classified by different elements such as nature, approach, objectives and methods. In this last element, which talks about the techniques used in the process, we have the Survey as one of the options.
What is survey research?
According to Babbie (2001, 519 p.), the first surveys were carried out in 1880, when Marx sent 25,000 questionnaires to French workers, in order to find out how they were exploited by employers.
Other scholars also used the method, such as Max Weber, who conducted research on Protestant ethics.
Gil (2008, p. 55) defines survey research as an investigation technique that uses “direct questioning of people whose behavior you want to know”.
The researcher requests information from a group of people, following a quantitative approach to data collection. In this sense, the problem that drives the study cannot be lost sight of.
Different instruments can be used in carrying out the survey , such as the application of a questionnaire and interviews.
The census, developed by government and research institutions, is an example of survey research. However, due to its high level of complexity, it can only be performed by authorized bodies with resources.
In the survey, the researcher does not collect data from all members of the investigated population. He only selects a significant sample, defined according to statistical procedures. Thus, the analyzes and interpretations made from the sample data are projected onto the entire universe, without neglecting the margin of error.
The survey has three essential purposes in its realization:
- Describe: discover traits and attributes of the studied population (what is it?);
- Explain: the observed distribution is explained;
- Explore: The exploratory mechanism helps identify critical elements, which makes the survey more controlled.
Surveys are often carried out to allow descriptive statements about some population, that is, to find out the distribution of certain traits and attributes.
Earl Babbie, 2001
- It is general and deterministic;
- The technique is based on cause and effect relationships;
- Facilitates the application of logical thinking;
- Measure associations and variations;
- They develop general propositions of human behavior;
- Identifies characteristics of subgroups (age, gender and education, for example);
- The research conditions, such as the simple presence of the researcher, can compromise the veracity of the information;
Survey surveys can be classified into two models:
In this case, the time interval for data collection is longer, as the researcher wants to identify changes in explanations and descriptions over a period of time.
The study of trends is an example of a longitudinal survey . It checks for changes in preferences and behaviors on separate occasions.
The cross-sectional study, which evaluates a specific population at different times, can also be considered a longitudinal survey . Another example is the panel study, whose objective is to evaluate the same sample of respondents over time.
Advantages of survey research
- Direct knowledge of reality;
- Allows you to collect a large volume of data in a short time;
- The collected data can be grouped into tables, thus enabling statistical analysis.
- Facilitates recognition of correlations between data.
Disadvantages of survey research
Like any research methodology, the survey also has limitations. Among the main ones, it is worth mentioning:
- The data are based on the perceptions of each person interviewed, thus being subject to subjectivity;
- It does not allow for a deep investigation of the investigated phenomena;
- It does not allow knowing more complex psychological and psychosocial aspects;
- It does not indicate variation or possible changes – it is merely a snapshot of a given problem.
Based on the positive and negative points of the methodology, it is noted that the survey combines more with descriptive than with explanatory research .
Step by step on how to do a survey
1 – Define the objectives of the study
The objective can be considered the backbone of any research project. To define this item, it is necessary to answer the question “What do you want to achieve as a result?”
2 – Operate concepts and variables
The concepts, usually verified in bibliographical research , seek to say what something is. The variables correspond to a set of excluding characteristics, that is, variations. Still don’t understand? Let’s explain better.
The research problem must be inserted in a broader perspective to build hypotheses and identify the variables. With this, the researcher is able to trace the outline of the study, indicating the relationship of concepts and variables with empirical facts (knowledge that comes from common sense, without theoretical research).
Concepts and variables, formulated from an empirical perspective, must be transformed into measurable concepts in this operationalization stage. The key question of the step is: How can these elements be measured?
The conceptual definition is based on theory, while the empirical definition takes into account the practical form.
3 – Develop the data collection instrument
Data collection in survey research can be performed with two instruments: questionnaire and interview.
The self-administered survey questionnaire is an interesting instrument for investigation because it requires little financial resources and can reach a large number of respondents. In addition, it takes less time to apply and eliminates problems related to the presence of an interviewer.
It is important that the questionnaire is composed of clear and unambiguous questions, otherwise the answers become imprecise and the result loses credibility.
The distribution of questionnaires can be done through printed media or digitally, with the help of online tools. Google Forms is a resource that makes it possible to create and distribute free questionnaires over the internet.
The interview is an appropriate data collection technique for finding out what people know, expect, feel, believe, or want. This allows obtaining information about human behavior in depth, something that is not possible with a questionnaire.
4 – Pre-test the instrument
Before carrying out the official data collection, the researcher must carry out a pre-test, that is, run the chosen instrument to verify if it is really efficient. This step is flexible in terms of sampling, but respondents must be suitable for the questions.
At the end of the day, the main objective of the pre-test is to improve the research instrument.
5 – Select the sample
Sampling is a representative portion of the studied population. It can be classified as probabilistic and non-probabilistic.
To select people from the sample, it is necessary to observe the characteristics of the universe or population very carefully. Only in this way can the researcher accurately define a small part of the large group.
6 – Collect and verify the data
7 – Analyze and interpret the data
One way to simplify the analysis and interpretation of collected data is by following these steps:
The researcher separates the data into categories and relates the information to each other. Coding also means transforming qualitative data into quantitative ones.
The data are placed in tables, with the purpose of better visualizing the information and checking the relationships between them.
8 – Present the results
After statistical analysis and data interpretation, the researcher creates graphs to facilitate the understanding of the results. The goal is for information to be interpreted more quickly by readers.