Survey Methods

Survey Methods

Survey is a non-experimental, descriptive research method. It is a field of applied statistics which studies the sampling of individual units from a population. Surveys can be useful when a researcher wants to collect data on phenomena that cannot be directly observed. What makes a survey a survey? Scientific methodology, Data collection from an individual, samples from a large population and the fact that it is conducted for the purpose of description, exploration and explanation

Types of Surveys

Data are usually collected through the use of questionnaires, although sometimes researchers directly interview subjects. Surveys can use qualitative or quantitative measures. There are two  basic types of surveys

  • Cross-sectional surveys
  • Longitudinal surveys
  1. Trend
  2. Time cohort
  3. Panel

Cross-sectional surveys

Cross-sectional surveys are studies aimed at determining the frequency of a particular attribute in a defined population at a particular point in time. A cross-sectional study is an observational one. It implies that the study environment is not being manipulated by researchers. It can compare different population groups at a single point in time and it stands as a defining feature of cross-sectional surveys. The benefit of a cross-sectional study design is that it allows researchers to compare many different variables at the same time.

For example: A questionnaire that collects data on how parents feel about Internet filtering

Longitudinal surveys

A longitudinal study is also observational. Even here there is no interference with the subjects by researchers. In a longitudinal study several observations are conducted on the same subjects over a period of time. Sometimes it lasts for many years. The benefit of a longitudinal study is that researchers are able to detect developments or changes in the characteristics of the target population at both the group and the individual level. The key here is that longitudinal studies extend beyond a single moment in time. As a result, they can establish sequences of events.

Trend surveys

Trend studies focus on a particular population, which is sampled and scrutinized repeatedly. While samples are of the same population, they are typically not composed of the same people. Trend studies, since they may be conducted over a long period of time, do not have to be conducted by just one researcher or research project. A researcher may combine data from several studies of the same population in order to show a trend. An example of a trend study would be a yearly survey of librarians asking about the percentage of reference questions answered using the Internet.

For example: A yearly survey of librarians asking about the percentage of reference questions answered using the Internet.

Time cohort surveys

Cohort studies also focus on a particular population, sampled and studied more than once. But cohort studies have a different focus. Cohort studies are largely about the life histories of segments of populations, and the individual people who constitute these segments. A cohort study would sample the same class, every time.

For example: In 2013 a sample of 2013-2014 post-graduates of IIM Raipur could be questioned regarding their attitudes toward professionals in libraries. One year later, the researcher could question another sample of 1999 graduates, and study any changes in attitude.

Panel surveys

Panel studies allow the researcher to find out why changes in the population are occurring, since they use the same sample of people every time. That sample is called a panel.  Panel studies, while they can yield extremely specific and useful explanations, can be difficult to conduct. They tend to be expensive, they take a lot of time, and they suffer from high attrition rates. Attrition is what occurs when people drop out of the study.

For example: A researcher could, for example, select a sample of post graduate students, and ask them questions on their library usage. Every year thereafter, the researcher would contact the same people, and ask them similar questions, and ask them the reasons for any changes in their habits


Priti Arvind Zod_ SectionA_pgp13044_Group9


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