Data gathering is a flexible and exciting process; especially when you use surveys. There are different survey methods that allow you to collect relevant information from research participants or the people who have access to the required data.
For instance, you can conduct an interview or simply observe the research participants as they interact in their environment. Typically, your research context, the type of systematic investigation, and many other factors should determine the survey method you adopt.
In this article, we will discuss different types of survey methods and also show you how to conduct online surveys using Formplus.
A survey method is a process, tool, or technique that you can use to gather information in research by asking questions to a predefined group of people. Typically, it facilitates the exchange of information between the research participants and the person or organization carrying out the research.
Survey methods can be qualitative or quantitative depending on the type of research and the type of data you want to gather in the end. For instance, you can choose to create and administer an online survey with Formplus that allows you to collect statistical information from respondents. For qualitative research, you can conduct a face-to-face interview or organize a focus group.
An interview is a survey research method where the researcher facilitates some sort of conversation with the research participant to gather useful information about the research subject. This conversation can happen physically as a face-to-face interview or virtually as a telephone interview or via video and audio-conferencing platforms.
During an interview, the researcher has the opportunity to connect personally with the research subject and establish some sort of relationship. This connection allows the interviewer (researcher) to gain more insight into the information provided by the research participant in the course of the conversation.
An interview can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. In a structured interview, the researcher strictly adheres to a sequence of premeditated questions throughout the conversation. This is also known as a standardized interview or a researcher-administered interview and it often results in quantitative research findings.
In a semi-structured interview, the researcher has a set of premeditated interview questions but he or she can veer off the existing interview sequence to get more answers and gain more clarity from the interviewee. The semi-structured interview method is flexible and allows the researcher to work outside the scope of the sequence while maintaining the basic interview framework.
Just as the name suggests, an unstructured interview is one that doesn't restrict the researcher to a set of premeditated questions or the interview sequence. Here, the researcher is allowed to leverage his or her knowledge and to creatively weave questions to help him or her to get useful information from the participant. This is why it is also called an in-depth interview.
A survey is a data collection tool that lists a set of structured questions to which respondents provide answers based on their knowledge and experiences. It is a standard data gathering process that allows you to access information from a predefined group of respondents during research.
In a survey, you would find different types of questions based on the research context and the type of information you want to have access to. Many surveys combine open-ended and closed-ended questions including rating scales and semantic scales. This means you can use them for qualitative and quantitative research.
Surveys come in 2 major formats; paper forms or online forms. A paper survey is a more traditional method of data collection and it can easily result in loss of data. Paper forms are also cumbersome to organize and process.
Online surveys, on the other hand, are usually created via data collection platforms like Formplus. These platforms have form builders where you can create your survey from scratch using different form fields and features. On Formplus, you can also find different online survey templates for data collection.
One of the many advantages of online surveys is accuracy as it typically records a lower margin of error than paper surveys. Also, online surveys are easier to administer as you can share them with respondents via email or social media channels.
Just as the name suggests, observation is a method of gathering data by paying attention to the actions and behaviors of the research subjects as they interact in their environment. This qualitative research method allows you to get first-hand information about the research subjects in line with the aims and objectives of your systematic investigation.
If you have tried out this survey method, then you must have come across one or more of the 4 types of observation in research. These are; Complete observer method, observer as participant method, participant as observer method, and complete participant method.
In the complete observer method, the researcher is entirely detached or absorbed from the research environment. This means that the participants are completely unaware of the researcher’s presence and this allows them to act naturally as they interact with their environment. You can think of it as a remote observation.
The observer as participant method requires the researcher to be involved in the research environment; albeit with limited interaction with the participants. The participants typically know the researcher and may also be familiar with the goals and objectives of the systematic investigation.
A good example of this is when a researcher visits a school to understand how students interact with each other during extra-curricular activities. In this case, the students may be fully aware of the research process; although they may not interact with the researcher.
In the participant as observer method, the researcher has some kind of relationship with the participants and interacts with them often as he or she carries out the investigation. For instance, when an anthropologist goes to a host community for research, s/he builds a relationship with members of the community while the host community is aware of the research.
In the complete participant method, the researcher interacts with the research participants and is also an active member of the research environment. However, the research participants remain unaware of the research process; they do not know that a researcher is among them and they also do not know that they are being observed.
A focus group is an open conversation with a small number of carefully-selected participants who provide useful information for research. The selected participants are a subset of your research population and should represent the different groups in the larger population.
In a focus group, the researcher can act as the moderator who sets the tone of the conversation and guides the discourse. The moderator ensures that the overall conversations are in line with the aims and objectives of the research and he or she also reduces the bias in the discussions.
If you are conducting qualitative research with a large and diverse research population, then adopting focus groups is an effective and cost-efficient method of data collection. Typically, your focus group should have 6-10 participants, usually 8; including the moderator.
Based on the focus of your research, you can adopt one or more types of focus groups for your investigation. Common types of focus groups you should consider include:
As we’ve mentioned earlier, an online survey allows you to gather data from a large pool of respondents easily and conveniently. Unlike paper forms, online surveys are secure and it is also easy to distribute them and collate responses for valid research data.
Formplus allows you to create your online survey in a few easy steps. It also has several features that make data collection and organization easy for you. Let’s show you how to conduct online surveys with Formplus.
When conducting research, many survey methods can help you to gather, analyze and process data effectively. In this article, we have looked at some of these methods in detail including interviews, focus groups, and the observation approach.
As we’ve shown you, each of these survey methods has its strengths and weaknesses. This is why your choice should be informed by the type of research you are conducting and what you want to get out of it. While some of these methods work best for qualitative research, others are better suited for quantitative data collection.
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