Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2019

Page updated 25 January, 2019

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2019, Researching the Real World, available at
All rights belong to author.


A Guide to Methodology

8. Surveys

8.1 Introduction to surveys
8.2 Methodological approaches
8.3 Doing survey research

8.3.1 Aims and purpose
8.3.2 Background to the research
8.3.3 Feasibility
8.3.4 Hypotheses
8.3.5 Operationalisation
8.3.6 How will data be collected and what are the key relationships?
8.3.7 Designing the research instrument
8.3.8 Pilot survey
8.3.9 Sampling
8.3.10 Questionnaire distribution and interviewing
8.3.11 Coding data
8.3.12 Analysis Response rate Frequency tables Graphical representation Measures of central tendency (averages) Levels of measurement Crosstabulation Measures of dispersion Generalising from samples Dealing with sampling error Confidence limits Statistical significance Association Summary of significance testing and association: an example

8.3.13 Hypothesis testing
8.3.14 Significance tests
8.3.15 Report writing

8.4 Summary and conclusion Graphical representation
Frequency tables can also be presented in diagrammatic form. A bar chart, histogram or pie chart can sometimes represent the data in a more accessible or easily understood way than the frequency table.

The choice of diagram or table in the final report is primarily about what makes the report most readable. It is, however, inadvisable to present all the data in the same diagrammatic way. A report full of pie charts, however colourful they may be, is just as boring as one that has endless frequency tables.

Figure, is the vertical bar chart for the data on consenting age for men with the data grouped into three categories, below 21, 21 and above 21 (See Table for non-grouped data) and it shows at a glance what are the popular ages of consent. However, it doesn't include missing or percentage data, which may or may not be important in the report, depending on what one infers about the missing responses (see discussion in Section


Figure Consenting age for men (grouped data)


Compile the frequency table for the age of consent for women (V21) and draw a vertical bar chart to represent the table. Use a computerised graphics pack if you have access to one. How else might the data be represented graphically?

It is important, however, to note that there is no point in including tables or diagrams in a report without analysing what they mean and showing how they relate to your hypotheses. Do not fill your report up with tables and diagrams and hope that somehow they speak for themselves. Without some commentary they are a waste of space.

For more details on different types of graphical representation of statistics see, for example, and (both accessed 21 October 2016).


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