When you wish to find out trends or features of larger groups, you can do a ‘survey’, also known as a ‘questionnaire’.
A survey can be used to:
- collect opinions about something. For example, you might want to evaluate if social workers are happy with a newly implemented software to document their visits with clients
- conduct needs assessments in a target population. For example, to help develop a programme for relatives caring for a family member, a needs assessment can help you find out about the support needs they have
- make predictions about people’s behaviour. For example, you can get an idea of how people without employment are likely to vote in an election
- find out common characteristics within a population of interest. For example, you can explore personality traits and skills in children admitted to a new school.
An example survey of common characteristics is found below:
Surveys usually contain a standardised set of questions which are asked to all survey participants. There are three main types of answer formats:
- Multiple choice questions: Participants are required to select one answer out of several proposed ones. It can look like this:
- Tick box questions: Participants can select more than one answer. To do this, they are usually required to tick checkboxes. These questions can look like this:
- Free response questions: Participants are given a text box in which they write whatever they would like to in response to the question.
Surveys can be conducted online, on paper, on the phone, or face-to-face. A few things should be considered when constructing a survey:
- define the topics and characteristics you want to investigate in your survey and choose existing validated questionnaires if available
- think about the order of questions in a survey, so that they logically build on each other
- formulate your survey questions to leave as little room for interpretation for the participant as possible. This is because the researcher usually gets no information on the thoughts or reasons behind an answer option chosen by the participant.
(Author: Leonie Ader)