What is a Survey? Definition, Uses & More

what is a survey
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The age-old question, “What do customers really want?” comes up frequently. The solution is simple: ask them! Surveys are critical for gathering data needed to establish effective strategies and keep staff and customers satisfied. We may obtain knowledge that offers us a competitive advantage and allows us to stay ahead of the curve by using a well-designed survey plan.

So why not go straight to the source and ask customers? These insightful observations are worth their weight in gold. Let us discuss surveys!

What is a Survey?

A survey is a type of research tool that collects data from a planned sample of respondents in order to acquire information and insights on a wide range of topics of interest. They can serve a range of purposes, and researchers can carry them out in a variety of ways depending on the methodology utilised and the goal of the study.

Surveys are used to obtain data in many different disciplines. They are an excellent choice for determining the characteristics, preferences, perspectives, and beliefs of a group of people.

Survey research is typically used for:

  • Social Research: The examination of the experiences and features of various social groupings.
  • Market Research: Determining what consumers think of products, services, and businesses.
  • Health Research: Involving the collection of patient information on symptoms and treatments
  • Politics Research: Assessing public opinion about political parties and programmes.

Psychology Research: It is the study of character characteristics, preferences, and behaviors. In cross-sectional research, data are collected just once; in longitudinal studies, the same sample is surveyed repeatedly over a lengthy period of time.

Standardised data collection techniques are often employed to ensure that each respondent may answer the questions on a level playing field, hence preventing the influence of biassed opinions on the research or study’s findings.

The technique entails gathering information from individuals through the use of an online or offline questionnaire. However, with the introduction of new technologies, it has been normal to transmit them via digital channels such as social networks, email, QR codes, and URLs.

What Types of Surveys Are There?

Four different survey methods are frequently employed.

  • Face-to-face surveys
  • Telephone surveys
  • Self-administered paper and pencil surveys
  • Self-administered computer surveys (typically online)

While the methods used to conduct surveys vary greatly, there are a few common elements. Many of these characteristics have been extensively researched by survey methodologists, psychologists, statisticians, and others.

What About Online Surveys?

An online survey is a collection of Structured Questions that a respondent answers via the Internet, typically by filling out a form. It is a more natural manner of contacting the respondents.

It is less time-consuming and less expensive than the usual method of acquiring information through one-on-one engagement. The data is collected and saved in a database, which is then evaluated by a subject matter expert.

Businesses give gift cards, reward points redeemable for goods or services, free airline miles, petrol station discounts, and other incentives to respondents to participate in such online research.

Research studies with incentives benefit both firms and responders. A controlled setting provides useful data to businesses or organisations conducting market research.

Advantages of Online Surveys

The benefits of taking surveys online are numerous. Every year, millions of surveys are distributed. For more than a decade, online survey software has been the most common method of doing survey research, and because receiving faster insights is critical to business success, more firms are shifting to digital solutions.

Online surveys have various advantages over more traditional techniques, such as paper surveys, and not just the money you can save.

Here are a few significant advantages to think about:

#1. More responses, faster

Unlike paper surveys, which need you to wait for responses, internet surveys can collect responses automatically. Respondents are also more likely to answer quickly to your online survey because it can be finished with a few clicks.

#2. They’re cheaper to run

Traditional surveys are substantially more expensive than online questionnaires. You are not required to pay for postage. Furthermore, you do not require the same resources and time to enter responses from paper questionnaires into your database.

#3. Online surveys are more precise.

Paper surveys have a wider margin for error because responses must be manually entered into your system to be evaluated. Answers from an online survey are directly entered into your system.

#4. Expected outcomes

Because you don’t have to manually re-enter replies from paper forms into your system, online survey data collecting is more faster, which means you get real-time analysis of your data that can be broken down and processed much faster.

#5. Reach new audiences

Anyone, at any time, can access online surveys. This eliminates the limitations associated with paper surveys that must be disseminated by hand or through the mail. Suddenly, you may undertake more in-depth research at a larger size, gaining a greater understanding of your chosen topic or study on a worldwide scale.

How to Construct a Survey?

A survey’s quality is only as good as its design, therefore it’s critical to be diligent at every stage, from inception to data analysis. If you design your research topic and distribution model carefully, you will be in the best position to acquire high-quality data.

#1. Define your research topic and objectives.

The success of a survey research study is dependent on the research topic being defined ahead of time. What are you attempting to learn? Do you want to discover what your customers think about your latest product or your brand in general? Are you doing employee engagement surveys to find out what benefits your employees want or whether they are engaged at work?

A survey will provide data but not the insights you need to alter your processes, goods, or services unless you design a study question and the metrics you want to measure.

#2. Choose who will be polled.

Who should answer your questions? Customers, employees, and customers are not using your product. You must identify this and decide the best way to engage them (social media, email, your website, etc.).

#3. Create and test questionnaires

Pre-testing and survey design are critical for achieving accurate and trustworthy findings. For example, effective survey design and pre-testing can assist clarify questions and reduce the possibility of respondents misinterpreting their meaning.

#4. Select a Survey Sample

The selection of a survey sample is critical for gathering meaningful and reliable data on the overall population. You must cross-reference email addresses with mailing addresses and erase duplicates if you are sampling a large database of consumer email addresses and want only one response per residence.

The remaining email addresses should then be used to generate a random sample. Use our sample size calculator to see how many responses are needed for data validity.

Another factor to consider when sampling is that your clientele are not an unbiased sample for all types of research. If you are launching a product for a new market sector, your current market may not be representative of potential consumers; hence, any data obtained from them will be meaningless.

#5. Send out your Survey

It is critical that you receive responses from all sample members when you send out your survey, as this will influence the response rate. Develop a strategy for attaining a high response rate before distributing your survey in order to fulfil your goal.

#6. Analyze the information

Before assessing the data, it is frequently necessary to code and modify it, especially if open-ended questions are asked. Qualtrics Text IQ makes it simple to analyse open-text replies and gives actionable information. Your whole data collection can then be analysed, and an improvement strategy can be developed. A variety of statistical analysis methods are well-suited to survey data.

Ways to Improve Your Survey Creation

A decent survey appears to be simple to create at first glance. You simply ask the questions you want answered, correct? In truth, how you pose the question might influence the survey responses, so make sure your questions are unbiased, direct, and mutually exclusive. There are best practises to follow to guarantee you receive the best outcomes, which we’ll go over in this section.

#1. Create a survey for your brand.

Regardless matter who distributes your online survey, make sure it matches your company’s logo.

When you construct a survey, it is still critical that the client recognises it as coming from you so that they know it is real and not a scam. This also helps to maintain overall brand consistency.

#2. Double-check your survey data for accuracy.

To ensure correctness, all data should be validated and double-checked.

Take the online survey yourself before sending it to ensure there are no inaccuracies. Complete the survey on various devices to ensure that everything works properly. After you’ve gathered your data, go over the output and double-check that everything is correct.

#3. Do not request personal information that you do not require or already have.

Respondents want to share their thoughts, not their personal information. Don’t ask for a respondent’s information again if you already have it. If you gather sensitive data, make sure you follow company policies, local regulations, and the GDPR (if applicable). You should also guarantee that the servers that host the data are safe and do periodic penetration tests to repair any flaws.

#4. Make sure your survey is distributed through the appropriate means.

Your survey can be delivered via a variety of means, including the web, email, social media, and so on. Distribute it through the channel your target audience is most likely to be on to ensure that the greatest amount of people finish it. This may also imply sending it to millennials via social media and Generation X via email.

How to Make the Most of Your Survey Results

Knowing how to conduct a survey is only half the battle. If you don’t then make modifications based on what you’ve learnt, the time you spent creating the survey will have been in vain. Before you ever obtain the data, develop an internal and external dissemination plan. You may also construct a sample presentation with fictitious data and a fictitious distribution plan so you know exactly what to do when you’ve evaluated the data.

#1. Set off automatic actions

Automatic triggers help you save time and grow your experience management programmes. Use the results of your surveys to initiate data integration with other technologies. Create service tickets straight from your service desk software or with a closed-loop ticketing follow-up add-on. When a client interacts with your customer service person, a warning should appear if the customer is at risk of churning. Once your data has been examined, the options for using automatic triggers are limitless.

#2. Convert findings into an understandable format

There are numerous things you can do with your survey results, but the most important thing is to get them into the hands of decision-makers in a format that they can understand. You can present the information in a variety of ways, from interactive PDF reports to exporting to Excel, SPSS, or Google Sheets, to ensure that it is well-received by your stakeholders.

Formatting your survey analysis into a user-friendly manner will help you get away from this (which provides little overall information when you have to view every question).

Why Would I Do a Survey?

Surveys can be used to gather data on people’s behaviours, needs, and views. Surveys can be used to determine attitudes and reactions, to assess client satisfaction, to gauge opinions on a variety of subjects, and to provide credibility to your research.

Why are Surveys Done?

In domains such as social research and demography, surveys are used to gather or gain knowledge. Survey research is frequently used to analyse people’s views, opinions, and feelings.

How Do Surveys Work?

There are two kinds of surveys: A questionnaire is a form in which a list of questions is given by mail, online, or in person, and respondents fill it out on their own. A telephone or in-person interview in which the researcher asks a series of questions and notes the responses.

What are the Two Main Characteristics of Survey Research?

Thus, survey research is a versatile method that may be utilised to investigate a wide range of basic and practical research problems. A quantitative and qualitative method with two major characteristics: variables are measured using self-reports, and sampling is given special consideration.

Can Surveys Be Flawed?

When a survey goes awry, we call the results “erroneous” or “biassed.” Both can render a study’s findings invalid. Survey error occurs when researchers make mistakes when designing or executing a survey, as well as when interpreting survey results.


Surveys are an effective way for researchers to collect data from a specific target audience, allowing them to obtain vital information and insights that can be utilised to inform choices and plans. Researchers can gather trustworthy and usable data to help them fulfil their study objectives by constructing effective surveys that are clear, brief, and relevant.


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