Surveys have been proven to be one of the most effective methods of conducting research. They help you to gather relevant data from a large audience, which helps you to arrive at a valid and objective conclusion. 

Just like other research methods, survey research had to be conducted the right way to be effective. In this article, we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of survey research and show you how to get the most out of it. 

What is Survey Research? 

Survey research is simply a systematic investigation conducted via a survey. In other words, it is a type of research carried out by administering surveys to respondents. 

Surveys already serve as a great method of opinion sampling and finding out what people think about different contexts and situations. Applying this to research means you can gather first-hand information from persons affected by specific contexts. 

Survey research proves useful in numerous primary research scenarios. Consider the case whereby a restaurant wants to gather feedback from its customers on its new signatory dish. A good way to do this is to conduct survey research on a defined customer demographic. 

By doing this, the restaurant is better able to gather primary data from the customers (respondents) with regards to what they think and feel about the new dish across multiple facets. This means they’d have more valid and objective information to work with. 

Why Conduct Survey Research? 

One of the strongest arguments for survey research is that it helps you gather the most authentic data sets in the systematic investigation. Survey research is a gateway to collecting specific information from defined respondents, first-hand.  

Surveys combine different question types that make it easy for you to collect numerous information from respondents. When you come across a questionnaire for survey research, you’re likely to see a neat blend of close-ended and open-ended questions, together with other survey response scale questions. 


Apart from what we’ve discussed so far, here are some other reasons why survey research is important: 

  1. It gives you insights into respondents’ behaviors and preferences which is valid in any systematic investigation.
  2. Many times, survey research is structured in an interactive manner which makes it easier for respondents to communicate their thoughts and experiences. 
  3. It allows you to gather important data that proves useful for product improvement; especially in market research. 

Characteristics of Survey Research

  1. Usage: Survey research is mostly deployed in the field of social science; especially to gather information about human behavior in different social contexts. 
  2. Systematic: Like other research methods, survey research is systematic. This means that it is usually conducted in line with empirical methods and follows specific processes.
  3. Replicable: In survey research, applying the same methods often translates to achieving similar results. 
  4. Types: Survey research can be conducted using forms (offline and online) or via structured, semi-structured, and unstructured interviews
  5. Data: The data gathered from survey research is mostly quantitative; although it can be qualitative. 
  6. Impartial Sampling: The data sample in survey research is random and not subject to unavoidable biases.
  7. Ecological Validity: Survey research often makes use of data samples obtained from real-world occurrences. 


Types of Survey Research

Survey research can be subdivided into different types based on its objectives, data source, and methodology. 

Types of Survey Research Based on Objective

  • Exploratory Survey Research

Exploratory survey research is aimed at finding out more about the research context. Here, the survey research pays attention to discovering new ideas and insights about the research subject(s) or contexts. 

Exploratory survey research is usually made up of open-ended questions that allow respondents to fully communicate their thoughts and varying perspectives on the subject matter. In many cases, systematic investigation kicks off with an exploratory research survey. 

  • Predictive Survey Research

This type of research is also referred to as causal survey research because it pays attention to the causative relationship between the variables in the survey research. In other words, predictive survey research pays attention to existing patterns to explain the relationship between two variables. 

It can also be referred to as conclusive research because it allows you to identify causal variables and resultant variables; that is cause and effect. Predictive variables allow you to determine the nature of the relationship between the causal variables and the effect to be predicted. 

  • Descriptive Survey Research

Unlike predictive research, descriptive survey research is largely observational. It is ideal for quantitative research because it helps you to gather numeric data. 

The questions listed in descriptive survey research help you to uncover new insights into the actions, thoughts, and feelings of survey respondents. With this data, you can know the extent to which different conditions can be obtained among these subjects. 

Types of Survey Research Based on Data Source

  • Secondary Data

Survey research can be designed to collect and process secondary data. Secondary data is a type of data that has been collected from primary sources in the past and is readily available for use. It is the type of data that is already existing.

Since secondary data is gathered from third-party sources, it is mostly generic, unlike primary data that is specific to the research context. Common sources of secondary data in survey research include books, data collected through other surveys, online data, data from government archives, and libraries. 

  • Primary Data

This is the type of research data that is collected directly; that is, data collected from first-hand sources. Primary data is usually tailored to a specific research context so that reflects the aims and objectives of the systematic investigation.

One of the strongest points of primary data over its secondary counterpart is validity. Because it is collected directly from first-hand sources, primary data typically results in objective research findings. 

You can collect primary data via interviews, surveys, and questionnaires, and observation methods. 

Types of Survey Research Based on Methodology

  • Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is a common research method that is used to gather numerical data in a systematic investigation. It is often deployed in research contexts that require statistical information to arrive at valid results such as in social science or science. 

For instance, as an organization looking to find out how many persons are using your product in a particular location, you can administer survey research to collect useful quantitative data. Other quantitative research methods include polls, face-to-face interviews, and systematic observation. 

  • Qualitative Research

This is a method of systematic investigation that is used to collect non-numerical data from research participants. In other words, it is a research method that allows you to gather open-ended information from your target audience. 

Typically, organizations deploy qualitative research methods when they need to gather descriptive data from their customers; for example, when they need to collect customer feedback in product evaluation. Qualitative research methods include one-on-one interviews, observation, case studies, and focus groups. 

Survey Research Scales

  • Nominal Scale

This is a type of survey research scale that uses numbers to label the different answer options in a survey. On a nominal scale, the numbers have no value in themselves; they simply serve as labels for qualitative variables in the survey. 

In cases where a nominal scale is used for identification, there is typically a specific one-on-one relationship between the numeric value and the variable it represents. On the other hand, when the variable is used for classification, then each number on the scale serves as a label or a tag. 

Examples of Nominal Scale in Survey Research 

1. How would you describe your complexion? 

  • light
  • dark
  • brown

2. Have you used this product?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Ordinal Scale

This is a type of variable measurement scale that arranges answer options in a specific ranking order without necessarily indicating the degree of variation between these options. Ordinal data is qualitative and can be named, ranked, or grouped. 

In an ordinal scale, the different properties of the variables are relatively unknown, and it also identifies, describes, and shows the rank of the different variables. With an ordered scale, it is easier for researchers to measure the degree of agreement and/or disagreement with different variables. 

With ordinal scales, you can measure non-numerical attributes such as the degree of happiness, agreement, or opposition of respondents in specific contexts. Using an ordinal scale makes it easy for you to compare variables and process survey responses accordingly. 

Examples of Ordinal Scale in Survey Research

1. How often do you use this product?

  • Very often
  • Often
  • Seldomly
  • Not at all
  • Prefer not to say

2. How much do you agree with our new policies? 

  • Totally agree
  • Somewhat agree
  • Neutral
  • Disagree
  • Totally disagree
  • Interval Scale

This is a type of survey scale that is used to measure variables existing at equal intervals along a common scale. In some way, it combines the attributes of nominal and ordinal scales since it is used where there is order and there is a meaningful difference between 2 variables. 

With an interval scale, you can quantify the difference in value between two variables in survey research. In addition to this, you can carry out other mathematical processes like calculating the mean and median of research variables. 

Examples of Interval Scale in Survey Research

1. Our customer support team was very effective. 

  • Completely agree
  • Somewhat agree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Somewhat disagree
  • Completely disagree 

2. I enjoyed using this product.

  • Completely agree
  • Somewhat agree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Somewhat disagree
  • Completely disagree 

Another example of an interval scale can be seen in the Net Promoter Score.

  • Ratio Scale

Just like the interval scale, the ratio scale is quantitative and it is used when you need to compare intervals or differences in survey research. It is the highest level of measurement and it is made up of bits and pieces of the other survey scales. 

One of the unique features of the ratio scale is it has a true zero and equal intervals between the variables on the scale. This zero indicates an absence of the variable being measured by the scale. Common occurrences of ratio scales can be seen with distance (length), area, and population measurement. 

Examples of Ratio Scale in Survey Research

1. How old are you?

  • Below 18 years
  • 18-25
  • 26-40
  • 41 and above

2. How many times do you shop in a week?

  • Less than twice
  • Twice
  • Three times
  • Four times
  • More than four times

Uses of Survey Research

  • Health Surveys

Survey research is used by health practitioners to gather useful data from patients in different medical and safety contexts. It helps you to gather primary and secondary data about medical conditions and risk factors of multiple diseases and infections. 

In addition to this, administering health surveys regularly helps you to monitor the overall health status of your population; whether in the workplace, school, or community. This kind of data can be used to help prevent outbreaks and minimize medical emergencies in these contexts. 

  • Polls

Survey research is also useful when conducting polls; whether online or offline. A poll is a data collection tool that helps you to gather public opinion about a particular subject from a well-defined research sample.

By administering survey research, you can gather valid data from a well-defined research sample, and utilize research findings for decision making. For example, during elections, individuals can be asked to choose their preferred leader via questionnaires administered as part of survey research.

  • Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is one of the cores of every organization as it is directly concerned with how well your product or service meets the needs of your clients. Survey research is an effective way to measure customer satisfaction at different intervals. 

As a restaurant, for example, you can send out online surveys to customers immediately when they patronize your business. In these surveys, encourage them to provide feedback on their experience and to provide information on how your service delivery can be improved. 

  • Census

Survey research makes data collection and analysis easy during a census. With an online survey tool like Formplus, you can seamlessly gather data during a census without moving from a spot. Formplus has multiple sharing options that help you collect information without stress. 


Survey Research Methods

Survey research can be done using different online and offline methods. Let’s examine a few of them here.

  • Telephone Surveys

This is a means of conducting survey research via phone calls. In a telephone survey, the researcher places a call to the survey respondents and gathers information from them by asking questions about the research context under consideration. 

A telephone survey is a kind of simulation of the face-to-face survey experience since it involves discussing with respondents to gather and process valid data. However, major challenges with this method include the fact that it is expensive and time-consuming. 

  • Online Surveys

An online survey is a data collection tool used to create and administer surveys and questionnaires using data tools like Formplus. Online surveys work better than paper forms and other offline survey methods because you can easily gather and process data from a large sample size with them. 

  • Face-to-Face Interviews

Face-to-face interviews for survey research can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured depending on the research context and the type of data you want to collect. If you want to gather qualitative data, then unstructured and semi-structured interviews are the way to go. 

On the other hand, if you want to collect quantifiable information from your research sample, conducting a structured interview is the best way to go. Face-to-face interviews can also be time-consuming and cost-intensive. Let’s mention here that face-to-face surveys are one of the most widely used methods of survey data collection. 

How to Conduct Research Surveys on Formplus 

With Formplus, you can create forms for survey research without any hassles. Follow this step-by-step guide to create and administer online surveys for research via Formplus. 

1. Sign up at to create your Formplus account. If you already have a Formplus account, click here to log in.

2. On your Formplus dashboard, click the “create new form” button to access the form builder."survey-research-new-form"

3. Drag and drop the form fields you want into your survey. Formplus has more than 30 fields that allow you to collect different types of information from your audience."survey-research-blank-form"

5. Use the form customization options to change the appearance of your survey. You can add your organization’s logo to the survey, change the form font and layout, and insert preferred background images.

6. Copy the survey link and share it with respondents. "share-survey-research"

Advantages of Survey Research

  1. It is inexpensive – with survey research, you can avoid the cost of in-person interviews. It’s also easy to receive data as you can share your surveys online and get responses from a large demographic
  2. It is the fastest way to get a large amount of first-hand data
  3. Surveys allow you to compare the results you get through charts and graphs
  4. It is versatile as it can be used for any research topic
  5. Surveys are perfect for anonymous respondents in the research 

Disadvantages of Survey Research

  1. Some questions may not get answers
  2. People may understand survey questions differently
  3. It may not be the best option for respondents with visual or hearing impairments as well as a demographic with no literacy levels
  4. People can provide dishonest answers in a survey research


In this article, we’ve discussed survey research extensively; touching on different important aspects of this concept. As a researcher, organization, individual, or student, it is important to understand how survey research works to utilize it effectively and get the most from this method of systematic investigation. 

As we’ve already stated, conducting survey research online is one of the most effective methods of data collection as it allows you to gather valid data from a large group of respondents. If you’re looking to kick off your survey research, you can start by signing up for a Formplus account here. 

  • busayo.longe
  • on 13 min read


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