In today’s fast-paced environment, we require a steady and accurate flow of information on our population’s needs, behaviors and preferences. This critical need for constant information on the part of governments, businesses, and social institutions is exactly the reason why we place so much dependence on surveys.
What Are Surveys?
Today, the term “survey” is often used to describe a method of gathering information — in person, by phone, or online — from a group of individuals, which often makes up just a fraction of the population being studied.
Unlike a census, where all members of the population are studied, surveys gather information from only a portion of the targeted audience. And most surveys are not public opinion polls; rather, they are directed toward a specific administrative, commercial or scientific purpose.
Surveys provide an important source of basic knowledge, with economists, psychologists, health professionals, political scientists and sociologists conducting surveys to study such diverse matters as income and expenditure patterns among households, the roots of ethnic and racial prejudice, the implication of health problems and voting behavior, etc.
3 Important Reasons to Conduct Surveys
At SoGoSurvey, we see plenty of great reasons to conduct surveys, and many of them can be reduced to this simple list:
1. You don’t know everything.
Sorry to say, but it’s the truth. In sports, when the underdog wins or a fluke play takes everyone by surprise, we say, “It’s why we play the game.” In education, we ask questions to find out how much our learners have learned. Simply put, we don’t know the answers until we ask the questions. If you already have all of the answers, start again at number 1. Those who know everything are simply unaware of their blindspots. Survey questions are simply an acknowledgement of the fact that you need insights from others.
2. You need to make decisions.
Whether you’re an academic researcher testing your hypothesis or a business implementing a new initiative, you can’t make decisions without data. That is, you shouldn’t. From time to time, of course, we all make decisions based on gut instinct, but when the stakes are high and the decisions have wide-ranging impact, we need more information. When you create a survey, you’re identifying priorities and seeking how to achieve them.
3. You want things to be better.
What does “better” mean, anyway? Someone in HR might think it means higher employee engagement and improved retention. Someone in marketing might want to see a rise in the company’s Net Promoter Score. Still others want students to do better in school. If you haven’t defined your goals, it’s hard to reach them. Assessing the current situation often requires measuring — employee engagement, NPS — before setting targets. It might be great to boost engagement rates to 95%, but it would be helpful to know where you’re starting. Then, of course, you’ll need to measure again to find out if you’ve been successful.
Types of Surveys
A survey can be administered in two ways, either as a structured interview, during which a researcher asks each question directly, or as a questionnaire, which the participant fills out on his or her own. Regardless of the format, all surveys are standardized to ensure that they are valid and reliable, and so that the results can be generalized to the larger population.
Surveys have become a critical way for us to gather information and data for a variety of research and analysis, ultimately leading to better planning and decision-making.