Types of Survey
There are many types of survey which are broadly categorised into two- questionnaire and interview.
A questionnaire is a set of systematically constructed questions used by a researcher to obtain needed information from respondents. A questionnaire can be thought of as a written interview. It can be carried out face-to-face, via telephone, computer or mail. It is one of the main data collection methods in survey and yields quantitative data. In addition, questionnaires generate qualitative and exploratory data when open-ended questions are asked (Dornyei, 2007 p.101).
Questionnaires can be an effective means of studying the behavior, attitudes, preferences, opinions and, intentions of a sample group. Questionnaires provide a relatively cheap, quick and efficient way of obtaining large amounts of data from a large sample where interviews would be impractical and inefficient. Data can be collected relatively quickly because questionnaires are self-administered and do not require the presence of the researcher. However, a problem with questionnaires is that it might be completed by unintended respondents and this can compromise the validity of the data.
Questionnaires can be structured, semi-structured or unstructured. In structured questionnaires, closed questions are asked, which makes it faster to answer by respondents and easier to analyse by the researcher. They are mostly ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, without provision for the respondent to give an explanation (Oppenheim, 1992 p.112). It structures the answer by only allowing responses which fit into pre-determined categories.
Conversely, unstructured questionnaires have open questions that give the respondent an opportunity to speak his mind. These set of questions are often used for complex questions that cannot be answered in a few simple categories but require more detail and explanation. However, analysis of this data is more difficult as varied responses may be presented (Dornyei, 2007 p.105). Semi-structured questionnaires comprises of both closed-ended and open-ended questions.
2.1.1. Designing a Questionnaire
A common point of concern with respect to the application of questionnaires is the low response rate of respondents. Consequently, the design or structure of questionnaires is paramount.
The following are key factors to be considered in questionnaire design:
a) Aim: All questions should capture the objectives of the study.
b) Length: Questions should be short, clear and concise.
c) Question order: Questions should progress logically from the least sensitive to the most sensitive, from the factual and behavioral to the cognitive, and from the more general to the more specific.
d) Terminology: The language of a questionnaire should be appropriate to the vocabulary of the respondents in a study.
e) Presentation: The questionnaire should be organised and well-structured. Furthermore, it should include clear and concise instructions on how it should be completed.
f) Pilot study: A small scale practice exercise should be carried out to ensure respondents understand the questions. Afterwards, the researcher should obtain detailed and honest feedback on the questionnaire design.
2.1.2. Ethical Issues
The researcher must ensure that the information provided by the respondent is kept confidential. This makes questionnaires good for researching sensitive topics as respondents will be more honest when they cannot be identified. Keeping questionnaires confidential should also reduce the likelihood of any psychological harm, such as embarrassment. Also, participants must provide informed consent prior to completing the questionnaire, and must be aware that they have the right to withdraw their information at any time during the study.
An interview refers to a verbal conversation between an interviewer who asks questions and an interviewee who answers them. The whole purpose of the interview is to obtain relevant information from the interviewee. Similar to questionnaires, interviews can be structured (closed-ended questions) or unstructured (open-ended questions). An unstructured interview is more probing as the interviewer is able to obtain in-depth information on the subject area. It provides the interviewer the freedom to ask follow-up questions to further explore the answers of respondents, unlike questionnaires (Sincero, 2012). It also enables the respondent to “speak in their own voice and express their own thoughts and feelings” (Berg, 2007). Alternatively, a structured interview has predetermined close-ended questions that might only require ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type responses without further explanation. In such an interview the rules are not flexible which can limit the freedom of the interviewer and interviewee. Therefore, structured interview is often argued to be similar to the ‘self-administered’ questionnaire (Alshenqeeti, 2014).
Interviews can be conducted in person or via telephone. A personal interview is conducted face-to-face. Personal interview is one of the most popular and widely used methods in primary research. It helps with more accurate screening as respondents are unable to provide false information regarding gender, age, race etc. (Defranzo, 2014). In addition, the interviewer is able to “detect social cues and body language, and also get deeper insight into a specific answer.” (Marshall, 2016). Personal interviews are very effective, but they can be costly and time consuming. A significant amount of time is spent on identifying the sample, finding qualified respondents and scheduling the interviews as well as the travel time and costs to meet the respondents (Marshall, 2016). Therefore, the size of the sample is very limited.
The second type of interview is conducted via telephone. It is easier and more convenient to conduct telephone interviews in comparison to face-to-face interviews, especially when the respondent is located abroad. It is also suitable for people with lower literacy. Nevertheless, unexpected difficulties may arise from this method when respondents do not answer the calls. In addition, respondents can be easily distracted due to time limitations and involvement in other activities. Some people might be even hesitant to partake in the interview due to the amount of time they fear it will take (Measom, 2018).