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In research and data collection, survey has always been a means to an end. Whenever you choose to list questions and create a survey from scratch, it's all because you want to gather valid data from a target audience for informed decision making. 

Survey data collection has a spiral effect on the research process because the quality of data you have, determines the type of decisions you'll make for your organization. In this article, we'll look at different types of survey data and methods for survey data collection. 

What is Survey Data? 

Survey data is the result you get from gathering responses from research participants. It is a fair representation of the opinions and perceptions of your target audience, and it forms the basis of informed decision-making in different contexts.  

Survey data can be in multiple formats, including texts, videos, images, documents, and audio, up to mention a few. The quality of survey data you get during a systematic investigation depends on your method of collecting the information, the types of questions you ask, and the researcher’s degree of bias. 

Types of Survey Data 

Here are the major types of survey data;

Primary Survey Data

Primary survey data refer to first-hand information collected directly from the main source or target audience. This means that the researcher draws up a set of questions and asks respondents who have direct knowledge of the research context to respond to these questions. 

There are many ways to collect primary survey data in research depending on the goal of your survey and who your target market is. You can use online and offline questionnaires to gather feedback from original data sources, or you can organize a face-to-face interview with your target audience. 

survey questionnaire

Examples of primary survey data include data from market research, academic research data and data from trauma survivors like victims of sexual abuse. When you collect data from the original sources, you gather specific information for your research context. At the same time, data collected from primary sources are up-to-date, unlike that of the secondary sources.

Pros of Primary Survey Data
  1. Primary data is more accurate than secondary survey data.
  2. The researcher has exclusive ownership of the research data. 
Cons of Primary Survey Data
  1. Gathering primary survey data is very expensive and time-consuming.
  2. Lack of feasibility, especially when you need to collect large volumes of data. 

Secondary Survey Data 

Secondary survey data refers to information from third-party sources or information collected from primary sources in the past. For example, a researcher may speak with witnesses of an accident to get the victims’ details. 

Another thing to note is data sets can be classified as secondary data in one instance and as primary data in another instance—it all depends on the context for using the information. Sometimes, you will find secondary data tailored to your specific research context like in academic research. In some other cases, you’ll need to adapt secondary data to serve your research purpose. 

For example, as part of market research, you can ask your customer success team to complete a survey on the significant challenges they deal with as they interface with your clients every day. You can use bots to scrape and organize relevant secondary data from the internet. 

Pros of Secondary Survey Data
  1. Secondary survey data is easily accessible, and you can get them through third-party sources like books, recorded interviews, and journals.
  2. Collecting data from secondary sources is a lot cheaper than primary data-gathering. 
Cons of Secondary Survey Data
  1. The quality of data collected from secondary sources may be subpar. You can end up with irrelevant or exaggerated information that will affect the validity of your research results in the end. 
  2.  Some of the data sources are outdated, and there are no new available data to replace the old ones.

Survey Data Collection Methods 

Depending on your project type, there are a number of survey data collection methods to choose from.

Online Survey/Questionnaires

An online survey is a set of standardized questions that people respond to online as part of the research. These questions can be closed-ended or open-ended, and they help the researcher gather insights into the needs, expectations, preferences, or experiences of the target audience.

customer needs survey

Online surveys are created on data collection platforms like Formplus and distributed via several mediums like websites, emails, and social media platforms. Questionnaires are part of online surveys, although the latter can also include other data collection methods like opinion polls. 

Online Survey and Questionnaire Tools
  • Formplus

Formplus is an offline and online data collection tool for creating and administering surveys and questionnaires in research. With Formplus, you can build different types of online surveys from scratch using the various tools and features in our form builder. 

You can find several survey templates for data collection on Formplus. These templates are ready to use, but you can customize them to suit your unique research needs in the form builder.

survey templates

Visit www.formpl.us to browse through our free survey templates or to sign up for a free account. 

  • Typeform

Typeform allows you to create forms with one-question-at-a-time, and because of this, it's excellent for creating quizzes. However, if you want to create a form type that is not for an online quiz, you would need a platform like Formplus that offers more dynamic features. 

  • Google Forms

Google Forms is one of the most common online data collection tools for creating surveys and sending them out to respondents. Google Forms has many basic data collection features, including custom form links and form analytics for data processing. However, it has even more limitations; for instance, you cannot receive data in offline mode, and you can only add 9 form fields to your survey. 

Pros of Online Surveys
  1. Online surveys allow you to gather and process large volumes of data fast and efficiently.
  2. It is easy to visualize and analyze data from online surveys.
Cons of Online Surveys
  1. The quality of data can be affected by survey research bias.
  2. Bad survey questions affect the validity of the survey responses. 

Reporting 

After conducting research, you need to present all your findings systematically for analysis, interpretation, and decision-making. Reporting is the process of putting survey data together and submitting it for further analysis.

survey-reporting

It is one of the most critical aspects of research as it validates the aims and objectives of the data collection process. 

Tools for Reporting
  • Website Articles 

Depending on the purpose of your research, you can extract secondary data from website articles. If you choose to go this route, you need to do a double-check to be sure you’re getting data from only credible sources. Collecting data from web articles is a quicker and less expensive data gathering method

  • Newspapers

You’ll find many opinion pieces and reports on factual events in newspapers, which can be a good source of secondary research data. These days, newspapers are in online and printed formats, and you can easily access them depending on your research needs. If you need to dig into past events, you can start your search in the local newspaper archives. 

Pros of Reporting 
  1. It is easy to report data from secondary sources as part of your research.
  2. Report tools are easily accessible. 
Cons of Reporting
  1. If the data in the report is incorrect, it will have a negative spiral effect on your research.
  2. The results may be affected by bias.

Observation

Observation entails paying keen attention to research participants as they interact in their natural environment to help you understand their behaviors, perceptions, and experiences for research purposes. Observation can happen through different means—the researcher can blend into the community and fully participate in their way of life, or the researcher can observe from a distance. 

Other observation methods in research are observer as participant and participant as observer. In the observer as participant method, the participants know they are being observed by a researcher, although there’s minimal interaction between both parties. For the observer as participant method, the researcher fully engages with the participants as friends. While there is full interaction with participants, they still know that this is a researcher.

Tools for Observation
  • Checklists

Checklists help you to streamline the information you need to collect as you observe research subjects in their natural environment.

checklist

You can list 3 or 5 criteria or parameters for your data collection process to guide you through whatever observation method you have opted for.  

Pros of Observation
  1. It is one of the simplest methods of collecting survey data in research.
  2. Observation can help you frame well-informed hypotheses in research. 
Cons of Observation
  1. Due to the uncertainty of events, you cannot observe all types of behaviors.
  2. Observation is not a reliable method of data collection. 

Focus Groups

A focus group gathers carefully selected participants who respond to several questions about the research context. The researcher acts as the moderator who guides the entire conversation, asks questions, and records responses for analysis. A focus group can be made up of 6–8 people selected from the target audience. 

Pros of Focus Groups 
  1. It gives you more context around the responses from participants. More than recording verbal responses, you can observe gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and other non-verbal nuances to help you interpret data correctly. 
  2. Focus groups allow you to collect data in bulk, saving you cost and time. 
Cons of Focus Groups 
  1. If care isn’t taken, some members of the group may feel left out of the conversation.
  2. The researcher’s bias can negatively affect the data collection process. 

Tips For Analyzing Survey Data

  1. Outline the goals and objectives of your survey to keep you on track. Here, you may need to ask questions like, “what am I trying to achieve with this survey?” “What type of insights do I need to achieve my research goals?” You should also note the parameters for data analysis. 
  2. Reflect on the most critical questions in your survey. You can order the questions based on priority to know which one of them has the most practical effect on your data collection process. For instance, in customer feedback research, the question: “How likely are you to buy from us in the future?” can have the most effect on your organization’s decision-making. 
  3. Use the cross-tabulation technique to filter the data at hand. Cross tabulation allows you to analyze the relationship between multiple data sets quantitatively.
  4. Interpret the numbers you have to discover any trends or patterns. Here, you can pay attention to demographic information to know if people of a certain age, educational level, or income levels have similar characteristics or are more likely to perform an action.
  5. Match the conclusions you have drawn from the survey to your overall research goals. This will help you arrive at the right results and measure the success of your systematic investigation. 

How to Collect Survey Data with Formplus 

Collecting survey data is easy with Formplus. From creating surveys to tracking its performance, the tool is designed to suit your every need. Here's how to make the most of it;

Creating an Online/Offline Survey

1. Log into your Formplus account at www.formpl.us to get started. If you do not have a Formplus account, you can create one on the website via the signup page. 

 

2. After signing into your Formplus account, click on the “create new form” button to access the form builder.

3. From the left-hand side of the builder, drag and drop different form fields you want to add to your survey. Edit each field to include the questions and options you want and save all your changes.

4. In the builder’s customization section, use the different tools and options to change the look and feel of your form. You can change the form theme and design, choose another form font, include background images and even add your organization's logo to the survey. 

5. Use any of the multiple form sharing options to share the survey with respondents and gather helpful information. 

Sharing with Targeted Audience

Formplus gives you more than one way to share your survey to not miss out on valuable data sources. After creating your survey, you can copy the form link and share it with survey respondents. If you plan to collect data from a closed community group or forum, you can send out email invitations to selected representatives from your target audience. 

You can also share the survey with your social media community via our social media direct shuttering buttons for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Simultaneously, you can add the survey to your WordPress website or share it via QR code, so respondents only have to scan the code to fill the form. If you created a PDF survey with our new PDF builder, you could download the questionnaire for offline use. 

Exporting Data as CSV or PDF 

With Formplus, there's more than one way to share survey data with your team members and other stakeholders. If you don't want to opt for Google sheets integration, you can still export form responses as PDF or CSV files and share them with the people who matter. Google sheets integration helps you to collaborate better with your team by automatically updating form responses in your spreadsheet. 

Interpreting Data 

In the form analytics dashboard, you can view essential statistics about your survey, like the total number of survey responses and the total number of form views. The form analytics dashboard provides exciting insights into your form, submissions, and the overall data collection process. 

Create beautiful custom visual reports for your form data using the reports summary tool in the form analytics section. All you need to do is click on the desired form field or data to display the information as a graph or chart instantly. 

Conclusion 

The type of data you need for your research plus your target audience determines the survey data collection method you choose. You can use interviews and observation methods to collect qualitative data from survey participants. 

On the flip side, if you need quantitative data, surveys and questionnaires are some of the best tools to use. Interestingly, you can include open-ended questions in your questionnaire for qualitative responses. Formplus allows you to create different types of surveys and questionnaires for survey data collection. 



  • Formplus Blog
  • on 11 min read

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