What is Survey Research?
Ideal for use in education, survey research is used to gather information about population groups to “learn about their characteristics, opinions, attitudes, or previous experiences” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005, p. 183). This is done by administering a questionnaire, either written or orally, to a group of respondents, and the responses to the questions form the data for the study (Berends, 2006; Best & Kahn, 2003; Fraenkel & Wallen, 2009; Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2009; Leedy & Ormrod, 2005; McMillan & Schumacher, 2006; Mertler & Charles, 2008; Polit & Beck, 2006). Gay et al. (2009) define the questionnaire, or survey, as “an instrument to collect data that describes one or more characteristics of a specific population” (p. 175). Some researchers may be able to work with the entire population, which is referred to as a census (Berends, 2006; Gay et al.; Mertler & Charles, 2008). However, most survey research is conducted with a sample of respondents from the target population. If proper sampling techniques are employed, the researcher can generalize the attitudes and ideas from the sample to the larger population (Fraenkel & Wallen; Gay et al.; Leedy & Ormrod; McMillan & Schumacher).
Why Do We Conduct Survey Research?
As previously mentioned, survey research is used to gain insight into the thoughts, ideas, opinions, and attitudes of a population. It is descriptive in nature, so unlike experimental designs, the researcher does not manipulate variables (Burns & Grove, 2005). Instead, the survey researcher describes and draws conclusions from frequency counts and other types of analysis. Although it is descriptive research, survey research may serve as a stimulus for more in depth analytical research. Many correlational and causal-comparative studies include survey research as part of the data collection process (Burns & Grove; Mertler & Charles, 2008). Researchers turn to survey research because it offers a flexible design and is appropriate for gathering a large amount of data from many different types and sizes of populations (Mertler & Charles; McMillan & Schumacher, 2006; Polit & Beck, 2006;). Finally, survey research is ideal for working with large and/or geographically dispersed populations when other methods of research are not always feasible (Best & Kahn, 2003; O’Sullivan, Rassel, & Berner, 2003; Rubin & Babbie, 2008).