We begin with an overview of survey research, including its definition, some history, and a bit about who conducts it and why. We then look at survey responding as a psychological process and the implications of this for constructing good survey questionnaires. Finally, we consider some issues related to actually conducting survey research, including sampling the participants and collecting the data.
- 7.0: Prelude to Survey Research
- Shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, in September of 2001, researcher Jennifer Lerner and her colleagues conducted an Internet-based survey of nearly 2,000 American teens and adults ranging in age from 13 to 88 (Lerner, Gonzalez, Small, & Fischhoff, 2003). They asked participants about their reactions to the attacks and for their judgments of various terrorism-related and other risks.
- 7.1: Overview of Survey Research
- Survey research is a quantitative and qualitative method with two important characteristics. First, the variables of interest are measured using self-reports (using questionnaires or interviews). In essence, survey researchers ask their participants to report directly on their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Second, considerable attention is paid to the issue of sampling. In particular, survey researchers have a strong preference for large random samples.
- 7.2: Constructing Surveys
- The heart of any survey research project is the survey itself. Although it is easy to think of interesting questions to ask people, constructing a good survey is not easy at all. The problem is that the answers people give can be influenced in unintended ways by the wording of the items, the order of the items, the response options provided, and many other factors. At best, these influences add noise to the data. At worst, they result in systematic biases and misleading results.
- 7.3: Conducting Surveys
- In this section, we consider how to go about conducting a survey. We first consider the issue of sampling, followed by some different methods of actually collecting survey data.
Thumbnail: A survey using a Likert style response set. This is one example of a type of survey that can be highly vulnerable to the effects of response bias. Image used with permission CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported; Nicholas Smith via Wikipedia).