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
8.3.13 Hypothesis testing
8.3.14 Significance tests
8.3.15 Report writing

8.4 Summary and conclusion

8.3.6 How will data be collected and what are the key relationships?
At this point it is necessary to review the aims, scope and the nature of the enquiry at the heart of the research. The intention was to collect data in the form of variables, via a survey of some kind. Having attempted to operationalise the concepts and construct appropriate indicator questions it is important to be clear about the key relationships under investiagation.

What, on the basis of the hypotheses being tested, are the variables that need to be measured, compared and correlated? What other variables are likely to impact on these primary relationships?

At this stage it is unlikely that all the potential analytic relationships will be evident and others will emerge during the analysis stage. However, it is important to have a conception of the kind of analysis that will be undertaken. Collecting a lot of data with no initial idea of the interrelationships and hoping the statistical analysis will somehow generate results is a mistaken approach that will involve a lot of resources but little valuable by way of outcomes.

Having identified the key variables and their hypothesis-driven interrelationships, reconsider whether a survey is the most appropriate tool. Will asking people questions generate the data you need to test the hypotheses?

Assuming that the intention is to continue with a survey of some kind it is then necessary to determine how the survey will be conducted and data collected. Broadly there are two alternatives: interview surveys and questionnaires.

Interviews can be undertaken on a face-to-face basis, by telephone/Internet connection (both aural and visual), or even asynchrously via email.

Questionnaires can be sent to respondents (either through the mail or electronically) or handed to them; with completed surveys returned by any of those means.

Section 8.3.7 discusses in detail how to construct a research instrument (interview schedule or questionnaire) and how to conduct interviews or distribute questionnaires.

Next 8.3.7 Designing the research instrument