Survey Research: Methods, Issues and the Future

Survey Research: Methods, Issues and the Future

Ernest W. Brewer (The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA), Geraldine Torrisi-Steele (Griffith University, Queensland, Australia) and Viktor Wang (Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJAVET.2015100106
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Survey research is prevalent among many professional fields. Both cost effective and time efficient, this method of research is commonly used for the purposes of gaining insight into the attitudes, thoughts, and opinions of populations. Additionally, because there are several types of survey research designs and data collection instruments, the researcher has the flexibility to determine which methods will work best for his or her particular study. However, regardless of the method, the researcher must carefully select an excising instrument or construct the data collection instrument, as this is the key to a successful survey research study. This article defines survey research, outlines the basic structure for conducting such research, identifies some of the major challenges surrounding survey research and provides some recommendations, and provides some insights into the shape of survey research in the future.
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Background Of Survey Research

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), While Gay et al.’s definition of a survey is sufficient explanation of the tool, the conceptualization of survey research by Murphy, Hill and Dean (2014, p. 1) captures beautifully the true essence of survey research: “Conducting survey research is at its core, a social interaction between a researcher and a (potential) respondent – a “conversation with a purpose”.

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).

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