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Survey methodology is "the study of survey methods".[1] As a field of applied statistics concentrating on human-research surveys, survey methodology studies the sampling of individual units from a population and associated techniques of survey data collection, such as questionnaire construction and methods for improving the number and accuracy of responses to surveys. Survey methodology targets instruments or procedures that ask one or more questions that may or may not be answered.

Researchers carry out statistical surveys with a view towards making statistical inferences about the population being studied; such inferences depend strongly on the survey questions used. Polls about public opinion, public-health surveys, market-research surveys, government surveys and censuses all exemplify quantitative research that uses survey methodology to answer questions about a population. Although censuses do not include a "sample", they do include other aspects of survey methodology, like questionnaires, interviewers, and non-response follow-up techniques. Surveys provide important information for all kinds of public-information and research fields, such as marketing research, psychology, health-care provision and sociology.

Overview

A single survey is made of at least a sample (or full population in the case of a census), a method of data collection (e.g., a questionnaire) and individual questions or items that become data that can be analyzed statistically. A single survey may focus on different types of topics such as preferences (e.g., for a presidential candidate), opinions (e.g., should abortion be legal?), behavior (smoking and alcohol use), or factual information (e.g., income), depending on its purpose. Since survey research is almost always based on a sample of the population, the success of the research is dependent on the representativeness of the sample with respect to a target population of interest to the researcher. That target population can range from the general population of a given country to specific groups of people within th

Researchers carry out statistical surveys with a view towards making statistical inferences about the population being studied; such inferences depend strongly on the survey questions used. Polls about public opinion, public-health surveys, market-research surveys, government surveys and censuses all exemplify quantitative research that uses survey methodology to answer questions about a population. Although censuses do not include a "sample", they do include other aspects of survey methodology, like questionnaires, interviewers, and non-response follow-up techniques. Surveys provide important information for all kinds of public-information and research fields, such as marketing research, psychology, health-care provision and sociology.

A single survey is made of at least a sample (or full population in the case of a census), a method of data collection (e.g., a questionnaire) and individual questions or items that become data that can be analyzed statistically. A single survey may focus on different types of topics such as preferences (e.g., for a presidential candidate), opinions (e.g., should abortion be legal?), behavior (smoking and alcohol use), or factual information (e.g., income), depending on its purpose. Since survey research is almost always based on a sample of the population, the success of the research is dependent on the representativeness of the sample with respect to a target population of interest to the researcher. That target population can range from the general population of a given country to specific groups of people within that country, to a membership list of a professional organization, or list of students enrolled in a school system (see also sampling (statistics) and survey sampling). The persons replying to a survey are called respondents, and depending on the questions asked their answers may represent themselves as individuals, their households, employers, or other organization they represent.

Survey methodology as a scientific field seeks to identify principles about the sample design, data collection instruments, statistical adjustment of data, and data processing, and final data analysis that can create systematic and random survey errors. Survey errors are sometimes analyzed in connection with survey cost. Cost constraints are sometimes framed as improving quality within cost constraints, or alternatively, reducing costs for a fixed level of quality. Survey methodology is both a scientific field and a profession, meaning that some professionals in the field focus on survey errors empirically and others design surveys to reduce them. For survey designers, the task involves making a large set of decisions about thousands of individual features of a survey in order to improve it.[2]

The most important methodological challenges of a survey methodologist include making decisions on how to:[2]

  • Identify and select potential sample members.
  • Contact sampled individuals and collect data from those who are hard to reach (or reluctant to respond)
  • Evaluate and test questions.
  • Select the mode for posing questions and collecting responses.
  • Train and supervise interviewers (if they are involved).
  • Check data files for accuracy and internal consistency.
  • Adjust survey estimates to correct for identified errors.

Selecting samples

The sample is chosen from the sampling frame, which consists of a list of all members of the population of interest.[3] The goal of a survey is not to describe the sample, but the larger population. This generalizing ability is dependent on the representativeness of the sample, as stated above. Each member of the population is termed an element. There are frequent difficulties one encounters while choosing a representative sample. One common error that results is selection bias. Selection bias results when the procedures used to select a sample result in over representation or under representation of some significant aspect of the population. For instance, if the population of interest consists of 75% females, and 25% males, and the sample consists of 40% females and 60% males, females are under represented while males are overrepresented. In order to minimize selection biases, stratified random sampling is often used. This is when the population is divided into sub-populations called strata, and random samples are drawn from each of the strata, or elements are drawn for the sample on a proportional basis.

Modes of data collection

There are several ways of administering a survey. The choice between administration modes is influenced by several factors, including

  1. costs,
  2. coverage of the target population,
  3. flexibility of asking questions,
  4. respondents' willingness to participate and
  5. response accuracy.

Different methods create mode effects that change how

There are several ways of administering a survey. The choice between administration modes is influenced by several factors, including

  1. costs,
  2. coverage of the target population,
  3. flexibility of asking questions,
  4. respondents' willingness to participate and
  5. response accuracy.

Different methods create mode effects that change how respondents answer, and different methods have different advantages. The most common modes of administration can be summarized as:mode effects that change how respondents answer, and different methods have different advantages. The most common modes of administration can be summarized as:[4]

  • Telephone
  • Mail (post)
  • Online surveys
  • Personal in-home surveys
  • Personal mall or street intercept survey
  • Hybrids of the above.

There are several different designs, or overall structures, that can be used in survey research. The three general types are cross-sectional, successive independent samples, and longitudinal studies.[3]

Cross-sectional studies

In cross-sectional studies, a sample (or samples) is drawn from the relevant population and studied once.In cross-sectional studies, a sample (or samples) is drawn from the relevant population and studied once.[3] A cross-sectional study describes characteristics of that population at one time, but cannot give any insight as to the causes of population characteristics because it is a predictive, correlational design.

Successive independent samples studies

Longitudinal studies take measure of the same rando

Longitudinal studies take measure of the same random sample at multiple time points.[3] Unlike with a successive independent samples design, this design measures the differences in individual participants’ responses over time. This means that a researcher can potentially assess the reasons for response changes by assessing the differences in respondents’ experiences. Longitudinal studies are the easiest way to assess the effect of a naturally occurring event, such as divorce that cannot be tested experimentally. However, longitudinal studies are both expensive and difficult to do. It's harder to find a sample that will commit to a months- or years-long study than a 15-minute interview, and participants frequently leave the study before the final assessment. This attrition of participants is not random, so samples can become less representative with successive assessments. To account for this, a researcher can compare the respondents who left the survey to those that did not, to see if they are statistically different populations. Respondents may also try to be self-consistent in spite of changes to survey answers.

Questionnaires

[3] Questionnaires should produce valid and reliable demographic variable measures and should yield valid and reliable individual disparities that self-report scales generate.[3]

Questionnaires as tools

A variable category that is often measured in survey research are demographic variables, which are used to depict the characteristics of the people surveyed in the sample.[3] Demographic variables include such measures as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, race, and age.[3] Surveys often assess the preferences and attitudes of individuals, and many employ self-report scales to measure people's opinions and judgements about different items presented on a scale.[3] Self-report scales are also used to examine the disparities among people on sc

A variable category that is often measured in survey research are demographic variables, which are used to depict the characteristics of the people surveyed in the sample.[3] Demographic variables include such measures as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, race, and age.[3] Surveys often assess the preferences and attitudes of individuals, and many employ self-report scales to measure people's opinions and judgements about different items presented on a scale.[3] Self-report scales are also used to examine the disparities among people on scale items.[3] These self-report scales, which are usually presented in questionnaire form, are one of the most used instruments in psychology, and thus it is important that the measures be constructed carefully, while also being reliable and valid.[3]

Reliability and validity of self-report measures

Six steps can be employed to construct a questionnaire that will p

Six steps can be employed to construct a questionnaire that will produce reliable and valid results.[3] First, one must decide what kind of information should be collected.[3] Second, one must decide how to conduct the questionnaire.[3] Thirdly, one must construct a first draft of the questionnaire.[3] Fourth, the questionnaire should be revised.[3] Next, the questionnaire should be pretested.[3] Finally, the questionnaire should be edited and the procedures for its use should be specified.[3]

Guidelines for the effective wording of questionsThe following ways have been recommended for reducing nonresponse[5] in telephone and face-to-face surveys:[6]

  • Advance letter. A short letter is sent in advance to inform the sampled respondents about the upcoming survey. The style of the letter should be personalized but not overdone. First, it announces that a phone call will be made, or an interviewer wants to make an appointment to do the survey face-to-face. Second, the research topic will be

    Brevity is also often cited as increasing response rate. A 1996 literature review found mixed evidence to support this claim for both written and verbal surveys, concluding that other factors may often be more important.[8] A 2010 study looking at 100,000 online surveys found response rate dropped by about 3% at 10 questions and about 6% at 20 questions, with drop-off slowing (for example, only 10% reduction at 40 questions).[9] Other studies showed that quality of response degraded toward the end of long surveys.[10]

    Interviewer effects

    Survey methodologists have devoted much effort to determining the extent to which interviewee responses are affected by physical characteristics of the interviewer. Main interviewer traits that have been demonstrated to influence survey responses are race,[11] gender,[12] and relative body weight (BMI).[13] These interviewer effects are particularly operant when questions are related to the interviewer trait. Hence, race of interviewer has been shown to affect responses to measures regarding racial attitudes,[14] interviewer sex responses to questions involving gender issues,Survey methodologists have devoted much effort to determining the extent to which interviewee responses are affected by physical characteristics of the interviewer. Main interviewer traits that have been demonstrated to influence survey responses are race,[11] gender,[12] and relative body weight (BMI).[13] These interviewer effects are particularly operant when questions are related to the interviewer trait. Hence, race of interviewer has been shown to affect responses to measures regarding racial attitudes,[14] interviewer sex responses to questions involving gender issues,[15] and interviewer BMI answers to eating and dieting-related questions.[16] While interviewer effects have been investigated mainly for face-to-face surveys, they have also been shown to exist for interview modes with no visual contact, such as telephone surveys and in video-enhanced web surveys. The explanation typically provided for interviewer effects is social desirability bias: survey participants may attempt to project a positive self-image in an effort to conform to the norms they attribute to the interviewer asking questions. Interviewer effects are one example survey response effects.

    See also