Types of surveys

Types of surveys

In most quantitative and some qualitative research, especially in positivist and interpretative research paradigms involving human subjects, a survey questionnaire or survey is a tool or research instrument used for collecting and generating data from a particular group of people. Based on a particular type of research question, it essentially contains a list of questions or statements that when answered by the specified respondents, can help extract needed data for further analysis and interpretation. Note that there are many ways to design surveys and structure questions or statements. Nevertheless, the first step in doing so requires an understanding of the different types of surveys.

Types of surveys according to purpose and research design

1. Descriptive Surveys: A descriptive survey is a research instrument used to collect data that when analyzed, would describe what people do or think. Common applications of this type of survey include studies aimed at determining and measuring the perception or attitudes of the respondents about a particular phenomenon, as well as research aimed at profiling selected respondents. Analyzing the data generates from a descriptive survey requires the use of descriptive statistics.

2. Analytical Surveys: An analytical survey is another research instrument used to answer research questions or to test hypotheses in a study that requires inferential statistics. To be specific, this type of survey is used to determine whether there is a relationship between pairs of variables or multiple variables. The methods for analyzing data obtained from analytical surveys include tests of difference, tests of association, correlation, factor analysis, linear regression, and time series analysis.

Types of surveys according to the structure of the questions

1. Structured Surveys: A structured survey consists primarily of survey items, specifically close-ended questions or statements, that are answerable by a “yes” or a “no” or by choosing from predetermined answers, such as in the case of multiple-choice questions and questions answerable through rating scale responses. Hence, survey items are rigid and responses are limited. This type of survey is also known as restricted surveys or close-ended surveys.

2. Unstructured Surveys: An unstructured survey consists primarily of survey items, specifically open-ended questions or statements, that are left completely open for response, thus allowing respondents to provide any answers, particularly descriptive responses, that they feel are appropriate with no limitations. Note that open-ended items cannot be answered by a simple “yes” or “no” or any brief factual answer, such as in the case of multiple-choice questions. Structured surveys are sometimes called open-ended surveys.

3. Semi-Structured Surveys: A semi-structured survey is another type of survey consisting of both close-ended and open-ended survey items. To be specific, a semi-structured survey primarily lists down generic topics or guide questions that can be further expounded through a one-on-one or focused group discussion. As an example, this type of survey may include a list of close-ended questions that are accompanies followed corresponding open-ended question for further explanation.