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Method

A tool that gathers comparative data from medium to large numbers of participants.

Purpose

  • To understand the behaviours, needs or perceptions of a large cross-section of people. 
  • To generate comparative qualitative and quantitative data sets.
  • To gather initial data to inform the design or focus of other research activities.

What you get

  • Qualitative or quantitative data that can be compared across demographics or communities.

Strengths

  • Describes the what of a situation or phenomena.
  • A fast way of gaining an ‘birds-eye view’ of a situation or topic.
  • Builds comparable data sets over time, allowing researchers to track changes. 

Weaknesses

  • Needs careful attention to its design in order not to bias answers.
  • Unlike an interview setting, researchers are unable to probe participants’ responses.
  • May not provide insight into why a phenomena occurs. 
  • Generalises insights, sometimes missing important details around experience and opinion.

Tips

Surveys are most powerful when they combine qualitative and quantitative data. If qualitative responses are not allowed in the survey, researchers should conduct interviews.

Tools and resources

Online Survey Software and Questionnaire Tools
Medium Surveys
28 Tips for Creating Great Qualitative Surveys

Reviewed 01 May 2020

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