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 2012–2020

Page updated 29 April, 2020

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2020, 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.Response rate

8.4 Statistical analysis
8.5 Summary and conclusion

Activity 8.3.1

8.3.1 Aims and purpose
Before undertaking a sociological survey it is necessary to have a clear idea of what it is the research is trying to explain. The research may be about a broad area, such as, poverty, women and work, ethnic differences in educational achievement, attitudes to gays and lesbians.

The first task is to narrow down the proposed research area and formulate a research topic in a way that asks a 'why' question. This research question will be the aim of the research.

Attempt to make the aim as specific as possible. For example, why do women put up with sexual harassment at work? Why do Asian children do better at A-level than children from other ethnic groups?

Activity 8.3.1
Draw up a research aim for a sociological survey of any area of enquiry that interests you.

NOTE: If you do not have a particular area in mind think of a research aim that deals with attitudes to gays and lesbians as this is the topic used to illustrate points below.

Initial aims are often based on common sense and usually preceed any engagement with previous research and literature reviews. You should, however, attempt to define the aim of the research more precisely. This will take time and effort.

The research aim is part of the general planning stage that, as suggested in Section 1.14.5, will take up about a third of your research time.

Next 8.3.2 Background to the research