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 8.3.2

8.3.2 Background to the research
What you decide upon as your research aim will relate closely to the work you do on the 'background' to your project. Working on the background is important because as your background knowledge develops then your aim is likely to become more specific and thus more manageable. It also provides you with a context within which to locate and report your research.

Background knowledge comes from: a review of the sociological literature (see Section 1.14.2); an examination of the relevant theoretical and political issues; and from talking to people. Indeed, getting advice from a wide range of people about what to focus on in your research is a useful strategy.

For example, in their study of poverty, Peter Townsend et al. (1987) took advice from, and involved, a range of interested organisations, such as the Disability Resources Group and various ethnic minorities groups. The combined knowledge and experience of these groups ultimately went into the design of the question schedule. The study was thus enriched by involving these community organisations in the design team.

Activity 8.3.2
Outline the 'background' to the research aim you produced in
Activity 8.3.1. NOTE Initially your 'background' may be very hazy but over time you should fill it out and provide a sound context for your research.

Next 8.3.3 Feasibility